114. Some rural areas are suffering from severe housing
affordability problems and a shortage of affordable homes as a
result of inward migration from elsewhere in the UK, an increasing
number of second homes and low local incomes. The stock of social
housing has been depleted as a result of right to buy more than
in urban areas. They also have a disproportionately high number
of elderly people. There are high levels of homelessness among
young people who cannot afford the high property prices.
115. As a result of these factors, the provision
of affordable housing within rural areas is a source of particular
concern. According to the Commission for Rural Communities, the
proportion of social rented housing in rural areas is lower than
that in urban areas: "Overall in rural areas public sector
housing continues to comprise a smaller proportion of overall
13.4% compared to 22.4".
The Commission suggests that the loss of Local Authority Housing
Grant cut off an important source of funding for social rented
housing. In terms of private housing for sale, it said that the
scale of increase in the supply of housing for sale is unlikely
to have any impact on affordability. "The modest scale of
new development envisaged for rural towns and villages to meet
environmental and design criteria is unlikely to have a strong
impact on local house prices by itself".
116. Devon County Council illustrated the way in
which planning policy supports urban areas but does not give sufficient
regard to the needs of rural areas.
"National policy preferences for urban concentration
underplay the realities of life in rural counties where the need
for affordable housing is high, yet the application of national
policy through Regional Spatial Strategy restricts greenfield
supply. Many of the rural households requiring affordable housing
are already living and working in the countryside and are essential
to the social and economic fabric of their communities".
117. The Government's Rural Housing Commission looked
at the housing needs of rural areas in greater detail and published
its report towards the end of our inquiry.
118. The level
of demand for private housing in some rural areas fuelled by migration
from elsewhere in the UK and the desire for second homes exceeds
the potential supply to the extent that any increase in house-building
would be unlikely to affect affordability. The provision of social
rented and affordable housing is therefore particularly important
in these areas. We recommend that the Government increases its
allocation to the Housing Corporation for rural areas.
housing and planning policies must be flexible enough to allow
new housing to take place in smaller settlements to support their
regeneration and to enable them to support a wider range of services.
We endorse the objectives of the report by the Government's Rural
Housing Commission and urge the Government to consider its recommendations
The design and maintenance of the new housing
120. It is important that the new homes are well-designed,
mortgageable and easily maintained. To streamline the construction
of new housing the Government is encouraging the use of modern
methods of construction (MMC), which involve producing many of
the components off-site on a production line, thus reducing activity
on-site mainly to assembly. The Government underlined the advantages
of MMC also in terms of achieving higher quality products and
environmental efficiency. About 40% of the Housing Corporation's
development programme uses this system of building.
121. Some of our evidence recalled the mistakes made
when prefabrication was last widely used in the 1960s, raising
issues about the design quality, durability and ease and costs
of maintenance. Bolton at Home said that
"The need to use modern innovative construction
methods to produce housing at a price between £60,000 and
£70,000 is both admirable and pertinent. The danger to be
avoided is to produce housing without a reasonable shelf-life.
One salutary lesson from the 60s is that cheap dense low cost
housing may solve an immediate problem but without tough quality
control during construction and a consideration of impact of infrastructure
it can become obsolete very soon. This is evidenced by the demolition
of so many 'modern' high rise and deck access property. Perhaps
the solution is to look at providing housing that may be low cost
but has the potential for growth, flexibility, and continued development
along the lines of a lifetime home".
122. To achieve the advantages of mass production,
the components have to be standardised. This standardisation can
constrain design. Paul Pedley, Executive Deputy Chairman of the
construction company Redrow, told us that
"The social rented sector is probably one of
the most advantageous places to use [MMC] because the Registered
Social Landlords generally have a standardised form of housing.
Therefore you can use it
It is more expensive than using
brick and block.
The only way you can make it work commercially
is to have a fairly high volume going through which means you
need the planning system to limit their comments to elevational
treatment, not looking at the fabric of the house. Once they get
to the fabric of the house, if you are changing the dimensions,
you have to go through the whole process again of re-engineering
the house. That just means it is totally cost disadvantageous
to us to do".
123. An early review by the Commission for Architecture
and the Built Environment of housing schemes funded by the Housing
Corporation using MMC concluded that
"Although some were satisfactory, none of the
schemes reviewed exhibited outstanding design quality. Performance
standards likewise were generally not exceptional
are substantial risks for all those involved in pioneering construction
techniques. These inhibit take up and hence reduce the potential
for improvements to be developed".
124. Concerns about the build quality achieved with
MMC were raised by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), who
referred particularly to previous experiences of prefabrication:
"Lenders are supportive of moves to create conditions
in which innovation can thrive but are conscious that past generations
of innovative housing construction have not always produced happy
results. Much pre and post war prefabricated housing has been
characterised by long-term defects and there appears to be some
connection between the use of such techniques and low demand.
Lenders have a long-term interest in property that has to stand
as security for a mortgage of up to 35 years term".
Peter Williams, the CML's Deputy Director General,
said that a certification standard for modern methods of construction
was being developed with the Building Research Establishment,
known as LPS 2020, to guarantee the build-quality which, he urged,
should be widely adopted:
"We are waiting for the publication of LPS 2020,
which will be the new certification standard for modern methods
of construction. We would like to see ODPM and the Housing Corporation
embrace that fully in a way that they have yet to do
absence of that standard, the risk is that we will be getting
people into new homes which then have no long-term life and our
concern is that, if we are not careful, we will repeat past mistakes".
125. The Report from the Committee in the last Parliament
on the role and effectiveness of the Housing Corporation, published
in June 2004, also highlighted the need for such a standard.
126. The experience
of previous house-building programmes using prefabrication demonstrates
the potential problems of poor design and the major maintenance
problems which can arise. We agree that MMC has some benefits,
but it is important that design considerations are not again compromised.
We recommend that the Commission for Architecture and the Built
Environment monitor closely the design quality of homes emerging
under the Housing Corporation's new programme.
127. It is important
that both house buyers and house builders are confident that their
new homes are mortgageable. We recommend that the Government make
the building standard LPS 2020 a requirement for all homes built
using off-site manufacturing.