Build new homes in weeks, not months, minister warns
Britain’s housebuilders must embrace new technology that could dramatically speed up the development of new homes in order to tackle the country’s crippling housing shortage, the housing minister has warned.
Brandon Lewis said organisations risked being left behind if they failed to take notice of advancements in technology such as off-site construction that can build homes in weeks, rather than months.
Lewis said: “More innovation in housebuilding is long overdue and it will be essential if we want to deliver more homes that we move beyond the traditional system of taking 20 weeks to build a home, if the British weather holds up.”
The UK requires 250,000 new homes built each year to meet demand, according to most estimates. Last year just 141,000 homes were built.
Lewis referred to the Beechdale development in Walsall, which uses off-site construction to build 200 low-carbon homes a year and built two homes in a day during a ministerial visit in 2014, as an example of the potential of new technology.
At a briefing to detail Conservative housing policies, the minister also set out plans to demolish and regenerate London's high-rise housing estates with more traditional streets. Lewis said the high-rise estates built throughout the 1960s and 1970s were something "none of us should be particularly proud of" and pointed to a north London development that mimics traditional terraced housing as an example to follow.
Housing has been named one of the main six priorities for the Conservative party ahead of the general election in May, however Lewis ruled out reintroducing targets for building new homes if the Conservatives were re-elected.
"I'm not going to spend my time setting a target, even one so low I know we can beat it and look great," Lewis said. "The danger is you just start ticking a box and there are unintended consequences. Whereas actually we've got to look at what is a very complicated sector and we've got to make sure there's the right offer on the supply side and demand side."
The remarks were met with concern by leading social landlords. Tony Stacey, chief executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: "What happens if all of that doesn't add up to the 250,000 homes each year we need? I don't think central government can abdicate responsibility for that."
David Montague, chief executive of L&Q housing association, said: "If we don't set an ambitious target we will not deliver."