The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government must take steps to ensure more properties are built by modern methods of construction if it is to meet its “ambitious” target to build 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s.
This was the conclusion of a report by the Housing, Communities Select Committee, which examined the benefits of these construction methods, and the current barriers to them being used more widely across the property and construction industry.
In order to boost the number of homes being built by these methods, it called for the government to report annually on the total amounts of spending allocated to specific MMC developments, and the number of homes constructed.
The report says there is an urgent need for more long-term data on the durability of MMC homes in the UK. This lack of data has been a considerable barrier, and has prevented financial service providers from engaging with MMC housing schemes.
The select committee says better data is needed so insurers, lenders and valuers can be confident that these homes and safe and durable over the longer term.
To help improve this data gap, the government should develop a digital data base, that records the design, processes and materials used in the construction of buildings. This could also track any repairs and alterations in larger developments and should ensure this information is available to all relevant stakeholders – including insurers and fire services.
The report also called for a review of current building regulations. This should consider how these regulations relate to MMC buildings. It also wants these building regulations to set more stringent energy performance targets for homes.
The government has provided numerous funding schmes – such as Help to Buy – to boost home building. The select committee says it should now consider funding new schemes, aimed specifically at MMC developments.
The report also called for the Ministry to lead a “co-ordinated strategy” across all relevant government department to increase MMC housebuilding. This would include departments responsible for training and constructions skills and research and developments.
The report says the government must ensure apprenticeships and other skills programmes (including the new T Level) include skills needed for both traditional techniques and MMC – and encourages more people in this sector.
Critically the report also called for local authorites to start building homes in far greater numbers than they have done in recent years. If the 300,000 target is to be reached the select committee says local authorites must supply “a signficant proportion” of these homes. It adds that social housing is particularly well suited to MMC because it often includes large numbers of similar homes, which reduces unit costs and providers certainty of demand in the supply chain.
Again the issues of helping home builders access land was raised, with the select committee’s report saying this was “key” to meeting these targets.
The report pointed out that it is often harder to access privately-owned land for MMC developments than for those using traditional building methods. It called for the government to help MMC homebuilders access land that it controls, so they can increase their overall delivery of homes.
The report concluded: “There are deep seated problems within the housing market in this country, and too few new homes have been built over recent decades to keep up with demand.”
It pointed out that the 2017 Housing White Paper listed various problems, including issues to do with planning and slow development of properties.
It says productivity and innovation could be boosted by encouraging more MMC – but this requires actions across government.