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“We have no choice but to make it work”: Using MMC to solve the housing crisis

Yarlington’s Executive Director of Growth and Development, Stephen Lodge, explains why MMC is key to solving the housing crisis

I was recently privileged to be invited to participate in a round table discussion, led by Inside Housing and LHC South West. Meeting in Bristol, the panel of industry experts came together to discuss where the sector is with using MMC and what our next steps should be to make this a reality.

The discussion started with the issue of MMC’s cost, time and quality to be a sustainable construction method, but I wanted to take a step back and address some fundamentals.  As a sector we’ve looked at MMC as part of the solution for some time, we’ve trialled different products, developed various pilots, and yet we’ve never successfully launched it at scale. I wanted to revisit the question of why MMC, and why now?

Yarlington Housing Group exists to help solve the housing crisis but to fulfil our ambition we need to overcome the gap between the declining size of the construction workforce, and the increasing need for the delivery of new homes.

The Government has set a target to deliver 300,000 new homes of all tenures by the mid 2020’s and demand is set to continually increase. We know that some commentators already believe this figure to be conservative.  So, if our goal to solve the housing crisis is to be achieved through delivery, we need the construction skills to enable us to do this.  And this is where our greatest barrier rests.

Looking ahead, by 2025, forecasts are that we’ll only have around 45% of the construction skills we need to meet the new homes delivery target. We have an aging (and retiring) construction work force where 22% of the current work force are over 50 and 15% are over 60. Alongside this, recruitment of the next generation into the sector falls far short of the retirement rate. This isn’t helped where one in five of all vacancies in the construction sector require specific skills, qualifications and experience.

If we’re serious about solving the housing crisis, we need to recruit in to the construction sector, or find other solutions for delivering new homes. There are some fantastic examples of organisations promoting skills academies and apprenticeships to help tackle the skills crisis but the reality is that we won’t entirely plug the gap and certainly not within the timeframe that we need to. MMC can play a significant role in delivering more homes, not as a replacement for traditional construction methods but to complement them. Given that as a sector we have not successfully embraced MMC at scale, I was recently ask what has changed that means we now will.  Put simply, we now have no choice but to make it work.

This is why Yarlington is championing MMC.

MMC has advantages that reach far beyond just helping to tackle a skills crisis. Notwithstanding the increased pace of delivery, homes manufactured in factory environments enable improved quality assurance, efficient waste management and working environments conducive to health and safety management. Manufacturing plants can be located in areas to help address skills development and improvements to the local economy.

To deliver MMC as a cost-effective housing solution, we need scale and trusted products, and we’re working to achieve this.  By working collaboratively as a sector, we can generate the scale needed for MMC to become a genuinely economical solution to the housing crisis.

Advantage South West (ASW), and innovative LLP owned by four south west based Housing Associations, including Yarlington is working with Altair to develop a procurement framework with MMC manufacturers to deliver homes for Housing Associations and Local Authorities, at scale across the south west.

We want to hear from organisations that are either already delivering offsite manufacturing in the south west or anyone that is interested in working with us long-term. Together we will be able to procure at scale, increase capacity, reduce costs and improve quality all whilst helping solve the housing crisis.