Call to help build affordable, energy-efficient homes to key workers

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THE GROUP of London’s largest housing associations is calling the private, public and charitable sectors to join together to build low cost Homes for Heroes to thank heroic essential workers who have kept Britain going during the coronavirus outbreak.

Inspired by the ‘Homes fit For Heroes’ programme after the First World War, G15 has set out a broad outline of how 100,000 new affordable homes for these workers, could be built throughout the country.

The Group states that they are ‘standing ready to deliver but would be able to do much more in partnership with the Government, the private sector, local councils, health trusts and charities.’

From NHS staff, to care workers, teachers, refuse collectors, delivery workers and many more, Homes for Heroes would see the construction of ‘good quality affordable homes which are well designed, energy efficient and digitally connected.’

A spokesperson for G15 commented on the announcement: “The homes should be equipped with private outside areas and access to high quality green spaces.

“They should be affordable to heroes on the lowest incomes and include options for essential workers to buy an affordable home of their own – something that is out of reach in many of our cities.

“To work at scale the efforts of housing associations would need to be supplemented by a large programme of public and corporate giving, innovative use of public land, planning flexibilities and an expansion in manufacturing capacity to build high-tech homes in factories.

“Precision manufactured homes would be faster, greener, cheaper and better quality and give an economic boost to the parts of the country that needs it most.

“As well as providing good quality places for our essential workers to live, a sustained Homes for Heroes building programme would support economic and social recovery.”.

Social housing is home to one third of London’s police officers and ambulance staff, and one third of workers in care-related jobs and the G15 is already housing many thousands of essential workers.

Helen Evans, Chair of the G15 and Chief Executive of Network Homes, commented: “Essential workers on the frontline of this crisis are often among the lowest paid in society. Homes for Heroes is about giving these people a safe, secure and genuinely affordable home to live in.

“With the collaboration of government and the housing sector, both private and social, we should bring forward a once-in-a-generation number of new homes for our essential workers, including those not eligible for traditional key-worker housing.

“Homes should be well designed, with private outdoor space, in convenient well-connected locations for healthcare facilities, schools and other employment hubs.”

The G15 has created a report on how Homes for Heroes can be delivered, resting on four building blocks:

  1. Create a national programme of low-cost homes prioritised for the heroes who have put themselves at risk to keep us alive and healthy throughout this crisis.
  2. Deliver an initial burst of thousands of homes within months, by matching government funding with housing association resources to make completed homes and those under construction available on a low cost basis for essential workers
  3. Support a high-tech manufacturing base to create jobs across the country – powering a long-term ambitious programme to deliver the low-cost homes our heroes need,
  4. Spread the costs across society by part-funding the homes through public giving, public land, government funding and housing associations’ resources.

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and UK Government Modern Methods of Construction Champion for Homebuilding, added: “This initiative sits well with the heightened mood of public gratitude towards the nation’s key workers.

“It also represents perhaps a unique opportunity to create a large scale and tenure diverse housing delivery programme, bringing central and regional government, local authorities, housing associations and private enterprise together in a unique way with a common goal.

“At the same time this initiative can unleash the full potential of the emerging advanced manufacturing modular housing market, delivering quickly at scale, a new generation of homes that are of high design quality, fire safety-assured, sustainable and affordable.”

The Homes for Heroes Report is available here