London’s population is set to grow by a million in the next decade. Demand for homes will rise even further, but we know the capital is currently delivering less than half and maybe only a quarter of the new homes it needs annually.
So how will housebuilding keep pace with the demand from London’s population growth?
Last week, the Mayor published planning guidance for affordable housing and viability in the capital, which outlined how he plans to increase the amount of affordable housing delivered through the planning system. In his guidance, he mentions that his Build to Rent model may provide large scale and more consistent demand for offsite-built housing.
Offsite-built housing has recently created a lot of noise and on behalf of the London Assembly Planning Committee I am embarking on an investigation that will assess its potential to bridge the gap between housing need and supply.
This timely investigation comes at a time when the Mayor of London is encouraging innovative methods of construction and has stated he wants to see a lot more off-site housing schemes coming forward for funding.
Two of the biggest factors preventing housing being delivered are the capacity of the ‘conventional’ housebuilding industry and developers’ marketing strategies that seek to ‘ration’ supply to maintain sales prices.
I want to understand the factors that have held up the adoption of modular housing more widely and identify the potential role the Mayor could play in removing barriers for more offsite manufactured homes and incentivising the sector.
The investigation will also address the suitability of this type of housing for the Mayor’s new London Living Rent product that could be delivered by housing associations, local authorities, and form part of ‘Build to Rent’ schemes.
I’m examining three key questions:
- What is the potential for offsite housing to help solve London’s housing crisis?
- What are the factors that have prevented, and are still preventing, the adoption of this type of housing more widely?
- What role can the Mayor play in removing barriers and accelerating the use of offsite housing for London’s new homes?
During the review I expect to look at a number of areas, including:
- What barriers are there to delivering such housing more widely – including guaranteeing demand, establishing production facilities, overcoming any negative image and securing funding?
- What financial models are needed to support modular housing and how resilient are they likely to be in the Brexit environment?
- How might the Mayor support and stimulate the use of modular housing in London, for instance through specific planning policies, the use of his own and other public land, design guidance and use of housing grant?
- Under what conditions can offsite housing represent an attractive solution – particularly in relation to different types of sites, densities, types of housing need, meeting the need for affordable homes and energy efficiency?
- How might the Mayor act strategically to enable a critical mass of demand to give more certainty to investors and offsite manufacturers to invest in production facilities and improve supply chains?
- How might the Mayor ensure the skills exist to utilise any increased production?
I am particularly interested in views from: offsite housebuilders, contractors and those involved in the supply chain, housing associations, local authorities, PRS specialists, the retirement housing sector, investors and the low carbon sector. Views from residents living in modular homes are also very welcome.
The report with recommendations to the Mayor, boroughs and the industry will be published early next year, so if you would like to contribute visit the investigation page and email your written submission to email@example.com.
Nicky Gavron AM is Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Planning Committee