Will MMC solve the housing crisis?

Sound Check July 30, 2021

Will MMC solve the housing crisis?

Despite successive UK Governments setting house building targets, the country remains in a housing crisis. There simply aren’t enough homes being built to meet demand.

Planning is slow – and political – and construction takes time. But the Government is pushing modern methods of construction, primarily off-site manufacture, as a quicker and greener way of building more homes.

But will it deliver the housing numbers to meet the target?

Currently, the Government is pushing MMC in the affordable housing sector, stipulating that all new affordable housing development is 25% MMC.

This is problematic in its own way, not least how the 25% MMC is interpreted – pod kitchen and bathrooms could count or timber frames.

“A lot of affordable housing providers I’ve spoken to say they will use the timber frame approach to meet the target, but that isn’t what these guidelines set out to achieve,” says Director Fraser Allen.

What the guidelines set out to achieve is more off-site manufactured homes. While the UK has some factories for off-site manufacture, much more investment is required to meet the output required.

It also requires investment in skills and training, and that needs the private sector to get involved. Some private housebuilders are considering it.

“Private developers looking into setting up MMC divisions is great, but the profitability will have to be proved for them to fully get on board,” says Associate Rishi Rai.

Another big challenge is whether people will be able to get a mortgage on homes built using MMC.

After the war, pre-fabrication was used to build council homes quickly, but when Right to Buy was introduced by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, tenants struggled to get mortgages.

If there is some reluctance from mortgage lenders to loan on MMC built homes, it will push up the cost of borrowing and make these homes less attractive to buyers.

So will MMC deliver on its promise? In this episode of Concert’s Sound Check podcast former property journalist Stacey Meadwell talks to Fraser and Rishi about the ins and outs of off-site manufacture.

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