Briefing: Social Housing and Modern Methods of Construction

By: Robin White
Published: April 2019

Briefing: Social Housing and Modern Methods of Construction

Today in England we face a national housing emergency driven by a long-term failure to build enough homes, and particularly enough social homes. A steep decline in social housebuilding has contributed to huge increases in private renting, rising homelessness and escalating house prices. At the same time the government is spending billions of pounds on housing benefit and councils are spending hundreds of millions on temporary accommodation for homeless households.

This is why Shelter is calling on the government to make an ambitious, long-term commitment to building social housing. This would not only be a more efficient use of public funds in the long-run, but would also provide many with the affordable, secure housing they currently have no chance of accessing.

A major programme of social housing can be the foundation of a successful housing market, supporting much needed innovation in the construction sector. Our housebuilding system today is far too reliant on homes for market sale, for which demand is volatile and limited by affordability pressures. By contrast, the demand for social homes in many areas is virtually unlimited. Building social housing at scale holds out the prospect of a stable order book for the construction industry, supporting predictability of demand for labour, skills and materials, as well as for Modern Methods of Construction.

Sitting outside of our standard development model, an ambitious social housing programme could be the chance to end our national housing emergency.