Planning, not modular, key to housing crisis

The National Federation of Builders has claimed that modular housing will not and cannot solve the housing crisis, arguing that planning changes holds the key to successful change.

The House Builders Association, the house building division of the National Federation of Builders, suggests that Britain has enough building capacity to meet the government’s ambition of 300,000 homes new homes every year, but it doesn’t have a planning system that allows for those homes to be built.

Whilst modular housing is often championed as the silver bullet solution to the housing crisis, the facts remain that you cannot start building unless you have planning permission. The real reason we cannot solve the housing crisis, argues the NFB, is because the planning process is unfit to solve it.

Local plans, which allocate sites for housing, often focus on large and slow-to-deliver sites, requiring heavy infrastructure investment to be made uncontroversial. Despite being vital to meeting demand, relying primarily on large sites outside existing communities is not getting the right homes built in the right places.

The planning process itself is expensive, slow and unfit for purpose. Approximately 42 per cent of minor residential planning applications and 75 per cent of major are subject to extension of time requests, environmental impact assessments or performance agreements. This means that the 13 week statutory period for planning applications often increases to six months or, in some cases, years.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning and the House Builders Association, says that the housing crisis exists because the planning process rejects the right homes in the right places. Modular housing cannot fix the housing crisis, only planning reform can. He says that, unless planning reform is the focus of the conversation, we won’t need 300,000 new homes to meet demand in two years, we will need 540,000.

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