Development Management Director Fraser Allen reflects on the world of affordable housing.
As we settle into 2022 and, on a professional level, I have now spent a year heading up the Development Management team with Concert, I think it’s worth reflecting where the world of affordable housing has got to and some key themes to look out for in the next twelve months.
Construction delays easing
Construction projects of all types have suffered from delays during the last two years of the pandemic and that has led to a shortfall in affordable housing, whether council-led, joint ventures, partnerships and Section 106 provision. As restrictions return to pre-pandemic normality, at Concert we are keen to continue to apply our expertise from site acquisition to value optimisation of initial concepts, right through to procurement construction and project completion.
Energy efficiency targets
According to government data, over half of social rented homes have an EPC rating of A-C. That still leaves millions of homes in need of retrofitting to meet ministers’ energy efficiency targets of all social housing reaching a minimum EPC standard of C by 2030.The first tranche of the government’s £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to improve energy performance will be awarded this month which will go some way to address the situation. With our expertise in managing and coordinating projects in the affordable housing sector, we look forward to being part of addressing the problem of energy inefficiency and tackling climate change, including how social landlords’ can be part of the move to net zero carbon by 2050. Plus, with Ofgem’s recent announcement that it will raise its energy bill price cap to just under £2000, even with the government’s support, there is still the need for energy efficient measures in homes to avoid millions falling into fuel poverty.
In terms of other areas of government policy, The Social Housing Regulation Bill, which Michael Gove has indicated could be published as early as March this year, will deal with how social housing providers operate and also how they are regulated. Like many working within the sector, we await this with interest to see what clarity it gives and, moving forward, how this impacts all stakeholders’ ability to contribute towards providing safe, affordable housing. And as housing associations and councils continue to address the problem of unsafe cladding on their building stock, funds that might have been invested in finding and investing in new developments, have slowed up.
More modular housing
The UK lags behind the rest of Europe when it comes to modular housing, but this could be set to shift with certain funding for housing association development programmes contingent on 25% of homes being built using modern methods of construction (MMC). There are huge efficiency and sustainability gains to be had by using offsite manufacturing such as large flat panelised units in place of more traditional construction methods. We are also seeing the affordable housing sector starting to look at Passivhaus standards relating to quality insulation, airtight construction and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, more previously associated with individual ‘Grand Designs’-style private properties.
More face-to-face engagement
Since the start of the Covid-19, we’ve all missed face-to-face contact whether that’s seeing friends and family or in a professional arena. Having worked in construction for over three decades, I know the value of building a professional network by meeting in real life. While it’s been challenging being able to catch up with professionals working in housing associations, developers, local authorities as well as funders, planners in the last year or so, now that Plan B measures have been dropped, we hope to continue to be a trusted link between these stakeholders with more in-person interactions.
Despite the challenges that 2021 has brought, the Development Management department has nonetheless made significant inroads with a number of housing association’s frameworks and we hope to build on the positive foundations during the coming year.