The UK housing market is faced with an unprecedented crisis, and drastic measures are required for its resolution. As reported on the latest Heriot-Watt University research, 340,000 newly built homes should be built in England on a yearly basis until 2031 for the problem to be overcome.
This number translates to almost four (3.91) million new homes and it is, undoubtedly, a shocking estimate for the British government and housing federations in general.
Given the current conditions, the UK State is under tremendous pressure in its effort to deliver a solid, long-term solution to this burning issue. However, the government’s current programme covers the creation of much fewer houses than what the Heriot-Watt research suggests.
More specifically, Independent reveals that England has set as a target the delivery of 300,000 new homes per year for the same period. Based on the latest facts and estimates, though, this amount isn’t considered enough by those who have a good knowledge of the UK housing market.
“The government simply has to understand the magnitude of the problem, and commit to funding new affordable housing at the level we need, as well as and overhauling the way it sells land”, said the Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation, Catherine Ryder.
David Orr who is the Chief Executive of the federation added while talking to Independent: “This research shows the epic scale of the housing crisis in England.”
169% rise in rough sleeping since 2010
According to Independent, the findings become even more alarming if we take into account the tremendous rise of rough sleeping in the United Kingdom. We are talking about an increase of 169% in the last eight years. The situation becomes even worse when the amount of people living in temporary accommodation is added to the equation.
By 2020, it is anticipated that 100,000 people (many families among them) will have no choice but to live in hostels, B&Bs, and other types of temporary accommodation.
This is a desperate call for more affordable housing options. Now more than ever, there is an imminent need for a revolutionary plan by the UK government in order to face this problem with success. The contribution of the housebuilding sector is also seen as necessary.
A funding of £2bn might not be enough
As stated in Independent, many charity and housing organisations in the United Kingdom believe that a £2bn investment in affordable housing might not be enough for coping with the issue. The reason is that this amount of financial support could only deliver just around 10% of the public housing needed every year.
To the contrary, they encourage the UK government for braver reforms on public land-selling and on the price of the private land that is intended to be sold.
Read also: The biggest housebuilders in the UK
Jon Sparkes, CEO of the charity organisation Crisis, underlines: “Thousands of people are ending up trapped in B&Bs and hostels or on the streets, exposed to danger every night. Far too many people are also living on a knife edge, in danger of losing their homes because of sky-high housing costs.”
4 out of 10 new homes should be affordable
The Heriot-Watt University research notices also that if the British housing market wants to see an actual change, 40% of the new houses produced every year should be affordable for the great mass of the population.
This is a very demanding task, as only in 2016-2017, affordable homes covered just 23% of the market’s total production. For a home to belong in the category of affordable housing, it should have a rent which is maximum 80% as high as the average rent of the area where it is built.
At the moment, 70% of the local English authorities have encountered great challenges in finding long-term accommodation for the homeless population in their area of responsibility.
Government’s unique opportunity
The green paper for social housing should be a good opportunity for the British government to change things around and provide all members of society with more housing opportunities. As governmental sources suggest, this will be the reason for a ‘groundbreaking rethink’ of the way social housing in the UK is approached.
“What the report shows is that this isn’t just a numbers game. We have to make sure we build the right homes in the right places, and that people can afford them. For most people social rented housing is the only truly affordable option and the government must support the building of many more of these crucial homes”, said Terrie Alafat who is CEO of the Chartered Institute of Housing.
How we can accelerate the homebuilding process
By now it’s self-evident that the housebuilding sector is under substantial pressure. Yes, the British government has to take some brave decisions and proceed with revolutionary reforms but housebuilders have also their part in it.
For that reason, an open dialogue between the two sides is required before any significant progress can be done. In that way, new regulations could actually respond to the needs of both the society and the sector.
What is more, the issue of digitalisation lies on the top of this discussion. This comes as no surprise given the fact that digital tools can allow construction stakeholders to speed up the homebuilding process in a number of ways:
Digital tools can make it easier for housebuilders to streamline the entire construction process and save a great number of resources in preparing and continuously re-adjusting the programme.
Being able to communicate document and programme changes in real-time will make it possible for the entire team to plan better and respond faster to unpredicted last minute changes on the field.
Simply put, no more contractors wandering around the site in vain while waiting for their materials to arrive or their co-workers to finish another task that has been delayed. All in all, real-time collaboration tools can contribute to the optimisation of the current workflows.
Reduce labour time
The use of digital solutions in the course of the house building process can have a serious impact on the labour time required for a project from conception to completion. Furthermore, it doesn’t take much to understand that less labour time equals to lower labour cost.
Long story short, the less time, effort and resources spent on planning, communicating, organising and rearranging your programme the easier it gets to finish your project on time and on budget.
Connect the office to the site
From this corner, we have analysed many times the value of reliable mobile field reporting. The rapid evolution of digital tools has made it possible for all project stakeholders to submit updates, photos or communicate problems from the site in real-time.
This seamless connection between the back-office and the building site is powerful, as it can make it easier for the entire team to respond fast and with great precision to any burning issues and prevent project delays, budget overruns and resource-demanding reworks.
It is no exaggeration to consider mobile field reporting as a true game changer if we take into account the ever-changing nature of a construction site.
Here is an example of how mobile field reporting works in LetsBuild:
Better use of data and standardisation
Ever heard of predictive analytics? Many construction experts see it as the Holy Grail of the sector and they are probably right. As a rule, a housebuilding project can generate a massive amount of data.
What happens to these valuable bits of information, though? This is where digital tools and reliable construction software come to the picture. Their use could ensure the capturing and proper analysis of this data both for ongoing and future projects.
In that manner, the standardisation of the building process can get one step closer. This would signify less time required both for designing and developing a project. In other words, it would allow the acceleration of the project life-cycle and would make it possible for housebuilders to produce more affordable houses on a yearly basis.
Another solid step toward standardisation is project replication. In a sentence, it’s the option of duplicating a project in order to build an exact copy of the initial version which can later be used in a different project. Construction software (eg. LetsBuild) can provide housebuilders with this powerful feature.
Such an option can save precious time in the course of the construction process in terms of designing, developing and delivering a housebuilding project.
Sharing knowledge and expertise
Few could deny that becoming better in sharing knowledge and expertise across teams and projects is one of the issues that the sector has to address. Digital tools can play a decisive role in that direction.
This can be an incredible productivity boost since there will be less time spent on coordinating and more on developing the project. Most important, valuable insights which could be used in future projects are now collected, stored and properly analysed.
Summing up, the crisis in the UK housebuilding sector is getting more intense year after year and affordable housing appears to be one of the primary nightmares. A number of bold reforms are required but they can’t be on their own the solution to the problem. A focus on digitalisation and the ways in which it can transform the building process is also necessary.