This week, Theresa May announced that she would be investing £2BN to tackle the affordable housing problem in the UK. Throw some money at it – problem solved!? Maybe it’s time we think outside the box… by thinking about boxes.
Firstly, let’s not forget we are dealing with a Conservative politician here in the midst of a crisis. Theresa May wants to draw support from the Labour centre ground and what better way to do so than a nice socialist policy that is sure to get the headline reader nodding in approval. Her talk of ‘rogue landlords’, ‘unscrupulous managing agents’ and housebuilders who ‘dodge’ their obligations however, is nothing more than passing the buck from the failures of successive governments to deal with the issue!
But I digress… my main issue with throwing money at the situation is you completely ignore the root cause(s) of the problem. Theresa May said ‘It will give you the stability you need to get tens of thousands of affordable and social homes built where they are needed most’ – guess where the top 10 local authorities are that are worst affected by a lack of supply… London. Two things: people outside the M25 boundaries will not be happy about been forgotten again and people in London will not be happy about making sacrifices for the last 20-30 years to purchase their homes, only for someone to move into a place next door that is ‘indistinguishable’ from their own for a fraction of the price they paid.
One of the main problems with building social housing of such an impeccable standard is that the needs of the few, not the many are met. It costs more money and requires more land to build better quality social housing, meaning the money will disappear rapidly and we will be in the same position again in no time at all. History has a way of repeating itself and you don’t have to look too far back to see why Theresa May’s model is flawed – research Aneurin Bevan MP.
So… why should we be thinking about boxes? Two words – modular housing. You may have heard this week that Brexit will result in a skill shortage in the construction industry: modular housing is simpler to construct, cheaper, quicker to assemble, more economically friendly… the list goes on!
The planning constraints put in place by local authorities to build anything different to what is already there, the reluctance of mortgage lenders to borrow against non-standard construction and restrictions put in place on green-belt land all contribute to the problem. Removing these three issues, thus enabling more modular housing to be built, will not cost the taxpayer a penny and go a long way to solving the problem!
I for one, would be proud to own an eco-friendly, cost-efficient modular home.