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What will the next 5 years mean for Housing Association stock?

With a new government elected we may finally start to see a clear policy towards Housing Association stock. Throughout the campaigning process in the build up to the election the amount of commentary relating to housing was noticeably low – perhaps summarising perfectly the approach of numerous previous governments that it is such a big topic that it is better to try and avoid discussing it if at all possible.

The reality though is that the new administration cannot continue to kick the issue of housing into the long grass. We now have five years ahead of us with a fixed term parliament where the issues around housing need to be addressed.

More than for most clarity is needed for the housing association sector. Housing Associations are a pivotal supplier of housing in the UK servicing every parts of society from key workers, through ‘typical’ family units, all the way through to the elderly and infirm, and the vulnerable. The service they provide cannot be underestimated, but nor can the challenge they face.

The reality is that as a country we have a shortfall of well over 1 million homes and Housing Associations are tasked with trying to create new stock to eat into this deficit and increase the number of homes which are available.

To do this the housing association sector needs absolute clarity in terms of government policy, legislation, and a freeing up of all potential funding streams to enable them to do the best they can; they need every available tool at their disposal.

If the sector finally gets a clear mandate then there is the opportunity to make the progress which is so desperately needed in terms of providing more homes – whether buying existing private stock, or by building new.

But therein comes a further problem – the housebuilding sector is already under massive pressure and is itself significantly short of the targets it recognises for itself. Simply there is not enough capacity to build the amount of homes required, especially using traditional construction methods.

Offsite Construction, so long touted as an answer, but so often avoided by many of the traditional construction companies has to come to the fore. It is now time for it to be given its opportunity, and to deliver.

The advantages of this kind of construction of course are significant – cost effective and thermally efficient with an emphasis on detailing the ‘fabric first’, modern and flexible in design through the use of timber or steel frame construction and panel systems, and capable of being constructed into the smallest inner city pockets of land which are now so common.

But of course the biggest advantage of offsite construction is the predictability of cost, and most importantly the predictability of completion times and by association the availability of housing stock. The traditional building industry continues to deliver little over 50% of its housing projects on time, and for the housing association sector this simply won’t do.

We are at the start of a new era, and it is in everybody’s interests if policy towards Housing Association stock is clarifed at the earliest possible moment. Let’s see what the next 5 years brings.

Mike Stevenson is Development Director of Sidey Limited suppliers of windows and doors to the offsite industry and through traditional new-build construction.
 

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