The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has committed an investment of £25 million to deliver over one thousand new affordable homes for first time buyers in London. Construction of the new homes will begin by March 2021 and the funding will be repaid in full within a decade.
A third of the one and two-bedroom houses will be constructed using prefabricated, offsite construction methods and a private developer will build homes that can be sold for at least 20% less than market prices. The homes will be built offsite in a factory, then brought to site.
The Mayor’s Innovation Fund will fund the scheme, which will help future site purchases and enable the developer to deliver high-density homes on small brownfield sites.
Other developers are now planning to use pre-fabricated technology offsite in their construction methods to boost housing supply in London.
Prefabrication may be unlikely to replace traditional building methods but the increased demand for more low-cost housing, and more uniform approach of offsite factories, can speed up delivery with significant benefits, delivering high quality buildings more quickly and at competitive cost. The less certain availability of skilled workers also looks set to make offsite construction more attractive.
Prefabrication can deliver cheaper homes built to a consistent quality and with fewer construction accidents. However, critics argue that sustainability is not straightforward, with components of prefabricated homes often imported (costing British jobs), opposed to the average 80% of domestic materials used in traditional housing methods.
Liverpool City Region’s new Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, has added his support of modern methods of construction, and is considering the building of an offsite construction factory that will train local people in construction work. He hopes the move will provide local people with employment opportunities – instead of losing talented local labour to London and then enticing new workers to the area.
In its new manufacturing facility near Leeds, L&G Homes is set to build thousands of prefabricated homes a year, using as many domestic materials as possible. It promises to deliver ‘defect free’ houses – homes built without the Friday afternoon tradesmanship, associated with the old assembly-line motor industry.