The future of housing

Last week I chaired an event in our office on behalf of Professional Liverpool with a panel which comprised Mark Kitts (Chief Executive of Liverpool Foundation Homes), Steve Coffey (Chief Executive of Torus Housing Group), and Catherine Holmes (Senior Area Manager for Homes England). The event was around the topic of “The Future of Housing” with each speaker presenting an overview of their organisations, followed by an interesting question and answer session.

And this week to continue the housing theme, I have attended the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester, which has again been very well attended with lots of existing and new contacts from the sector.

The themes of discussion from both of these events have been that there are significant short, medium, and long term opportunities; and that there are also challenges which will need to be overcome to deliver on the government’s aspiration to deliver 300,000 new homes per annum.

One interesting area that was discussed, and which we have seen in our housing and other public sector projects, has been the importance of partnership working between different public sector organisations and between the public and private sectors.

Our position on the Homes England framework has given us first hand experience of how they are partnering with a range of housing providers to ensure deliverability and viability of schemes. We have also seen a range of other projects where the public and private sectors are combining to deliver homes on a range of tenures and building typologies.

The requirement for accelerated delivery and the skills shortage in the market, amongst other factors, have combined to bring a real focus on Modern Methods of Construction, Off Site Construction and the wider Design for Manufacture and Assembly agenda. This is an area that we have been working within for many years, and which is now a real focus of our business.

Work we are completing on the Dublin City Council framework for accelerated housing which is being achieved through a modular solution is progressing well and the learning from this, and our work with various other public sector, private developer and house-builder clients is now shared throughout our business by our specialist Digital Skills & Delivery R&D group.

Placemaking and the need to deliver high quality “homes” rather than “units” has been a topic of real interest, with the need to deliver transport, education, healthcare, community, public spaces and other social and physical infrastructure resulting in a fine balance with viability and business cases / option appraisals, particularly when combined with the requirement to deliver affordable homes. Quality as well as quantity has been a key theme, with lots of discussion around likely introduction of new more demanding design standards (which was a part of Theresa May’s Keynote speech.)

The availability of land and the need to deliver homes in the right areas is pressuring many providers, so access to effective and early advice on site constraints and abnormals has been discussed by many of the individuals and organisations I have spoken with. Our Foursite Due Diligence service has been developed over several years and we have delivered this to various clients to meet this requirement.

Whilst the above issues are challenging, as an industry we need to continue the journey in overcoming them in order to deliver the housing that is needed. We look forward to working with Homes England, our fellow designers and contractors and existing and new public and private clients to meet these requirements over the coming years.