MMC could be the solution to the UK's social housing needs
Shelter, the homeless charity, estimates that the UK has suffered a net loss of around half a million social housing units since the millennium. Existing housing stock is ageing and waiting lists far exceed official estimates, plunging the country into a social housing crisis.
The Right to Buy scheme and routine demolitions have further reduced the available housing stock, leaving the UK 150,000 social housing units short every year. And with average annual output standing at just 4.4% of the units required, supply is nowhere near demand. In fact, you'd have to look back to the 1970s to see the last time the UK built social housing in sufficient numbers to meet its needs.
But while there are multiple challenges facing the traditional construction industry, including skills shortages, an ageing workforce, supply chain issues and the rising cost of materials, there are alternative solutions to protect society's most vulnerable.
Ayrshire modular housing
In South Ayrshire, Connect Modular has delivered 63 affordable homes to the Irvine Housing Association in the first phase of what will be a 250 home development. It's the largest social housing development in the area and delivers a mix of affordable housing from bungalows and one-bedroom flats to three-bedroom houses.
The Irvine Housing Association already boasts a 2,000 home portfolio, and is eager to embrace the evolution in construction with their first foray into MMC. The new homes in South Ayrshire are delivered 90% complete for shorter build times and earlier occupancy. Paul Hillard, managing director of Irvine Housing Association, said the project delivered greater capacity to meet social housing needs while offering good value to customers with high-quality and efficient homes.
MMC companies like TopHat are hoping that the precision-engineered techniques used to produce offsite homes in a factory will significantly speed up the delivery of social housing where it's most needed. It's a low-cost option for councils to deliver low-rent housing to meet a critical need.
But MMC homes go further than simply offering a low-cost option. With energy costs soaring and accounting for an ever-increasing part of many homeowners monthly outgoings, modular buildings are routinely built to A or B EPC ratings making them much cheaper to run and giving councils the opportunity to meet sustainability targets.
High volume and with a quick turnover, factory-built housing is not only highly energy-efficient but also minimises disruption and carbon pollution in the built environment. This in turn lowers costs and the environmental impact.
Homes England has long been championing modular as a way to deliver social housing in a fast and efficient way and the government is taking note. Last year the national housing agency announced that housing associations would have to commit to using MMC to deliver at least 25% of their pipelines as part of the £11.5bn Affordable Housing Programme.
As the success of Kilmarnock Road, Dundonald has shown, modular housing is a much-needed innovation in the social housing market. And while it may not be a silver bullet, it brings much-needed productivity at a time when demand so hugely outstrips supply.