Modern construction methods tipped to offer solutions to social housing challenges

NEW research has revealed that three-quarters of Scottish adults believe there is a shortage of homes for social rent.

A poll of 1,000 people from public sector procurement specialist Scape Procure Scotland found that 87% of respondents are “very concerned” about the lack of social rented homes being built north of the border. In a separate survey of senior managers and decision-makers at 25 of the 32 Scottish local authorities, nearly half are very concerned about the lack of social rented homes being built in their area.

Scape said demand for social rented homes in Scotland “dramatically outstrips supply”. The organisation added that its research reveals that, on average, councils have just 101 social rented homes available at any one time.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive said, “Senior officers at local authorities in Scotland are concerned about the pace at which homes for social rent are being built. While RSLs (Registered Social Landlords) manage estates effectively and are vital to regeneration, a reliance on the model is not providing enough homes for social rent. 137,100 households in Scotland are currently on the housing waiting list; at the current rate of construction it will be 33 years until everyone has a home. Given the current model is not working, local authorities need sole responsibility for the construction of new homes for social rent. The Scottish public sector demonstrated their ability to build at scale during the 1950s and 1960s and local authorities need to be empowered to deliver at this rate again.”

Scape said all the council officers surveyed said their local authority would like sole responsibility for building more homes for social rent, rather than relying on RSLs. The public also think this approach would be better, with 67% of respondents saying they would prefer councils to hold exclusive responsibility.

Scape believes Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) offer “immediate solutions” to the challenges. Mark Robinson added, “The opportunity Modern Methods of Construction presents to circumvent the skills shortage and deliver homes for social rent must be realised by local authorities and Holyrood. Scotland will need to innovate to meet housing requirements. We will need increased flexibility within the planning system to deliver modular homes, whether this is pre-approved designs that can be fast-tracked or sites assigned for modular developments.

“In construction, certainty as regards time and costs is a top priority and Modern Methods of Construction can deliver this. We need to see local authorities leading the way to encourage increased uptake and enable the industry to operate at scale.”