[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Prefabricated Housing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:53 am on 4th November 2015.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing) 9:53 am, 4th November 2015

May I say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen? I congratulate Damian Collins on introducing an interesting element to our housing debate.

This week we have rehearsed the point well that we are in the middle of a housing crisis. Last year’s output was only 117,000 homes, and we need about 245,000 a year, so anything that can help us to plug that huge gap in supply has to be looked at carefully, especially given the number of homes we are producing for social rent: we produced fewer than 11,000 last year—nowhere near enough. We should be delivering about 78,000 each year if we are to meet need. We should therefore look in some detail at providing what the hon. Gentleman rightly described as off-site housing, rather than prefab housing.

This is not an easy debate. The hon. Gentleman said that we do not come to this issue in a vacuum, because a number of us have experienced prefab housing built between the wars, and during and after the second world war—housing that had to be demolished in the 1970s and rebuilt. Results varied across the country. Some prefab estates lasted much longer than that, and many people who live in them really like them, but many of those houses were of insufficient quality to last and had to be demolished. We need to be careful to say that we are not talking about that sort of housing.

The Government’s off-site housing review report, commissioned in 2013, suggested that prefabricated construction methods could form part of the solution to England’s housing supply crisis. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister what the Government are doing about that report, and whether they plan to incentivise the building of that housing in any way.

The report highlighted examples such as Y:Cube, a prefabricated home scheme developed by the YMCA in London that boasts self-contained, one-bedroom flats with their own bathroom, living room and kitchen—all in a compact unit of 26 square metres. Those homes are for vulnerable young people, and it is encouraging that they meet code level 6 energy requirements. A three-week test showed that each home could be lit and heated to 20° C all day and all night for £7 a week. That is really good in terms of energy costs, and the home has a lifespan of 60 years or more.