The cheap housing method, whereby homes are built off-site and dropped into place, is once again the future of building, according to an independent report commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
But while today’s versions – dubbed “modular” homes – are still low-cost, with prices starting at £20,000, they boast state-of-the-art design and impressive \”green\” credentials.
Pre-fabs got a bad name for shoddy design and poor construction after they were churned out by the thousands to solve the post-war housing crisis.
The reason this won\’t work is because the problem we have with UK housing (most especially in the SE and London) isn\’t that a house itself is too expensive. Sure, prefabs could being down that part of it from £100,000 ish to that £20,000 ish (although I would imagine that it would be more than £20,000 for a prefab 3 bedder, while construction costs for something the size of a prefab would be less than £100,000 using traditional methods) asnd that would be nice.
The problem though is the cost of land upon which you are allowed to put a house. Planning permission in short.
It\’s Mr Wadsworth who has in the past done the numbers for us but I seem to recall that it\’s something like £100,000 a house and up just from the planning permission.
For example, there was a case where the court had to decide about whether the planning permission for houses which had been destroyed in the war was still valid. As there was an act that said that any house which had been blown up could be rebuilt they decided that it was. So, a corner of a park in south London, which had once had 6 (mebbe 8) houses on it was not worth the £15,000 the council put on it as a piece of the park. It was worth the £1.5 million that land with planning permission was worth.
Agricultural land can be bought in the SE for £8,000 a hectare these days. Bad stuff, bad agricultural land for less. Get planning permission on such and it goes well over £1 million a hectare.
To really be able to provide cheap and good housing we\’ve got to deal with this problem as well. If we were allowed to put £30,000 (so, a little larger) prefabs on land that cost £8,000 a hectare then we really could have affordable housing for all. Just to be extreme, say £10,000 a house for connecting all the services to low density developments, say 4-8 a hectare. 3 bed houses with quarter to half acres gardens for under £50,000 each.
To provide 80,000 houses a year (the desired goal apparently) we would be building over 0.08% to 0.16% of England each year (10,000-20,000 hectares of the 13,043,900), or in a decade we would expand the built environment from the current 10% ish to 11% ish.
We can absolutely have affordable housing. We just need to clean up the planning system first.