National Homes for Heroes campaign wants to deliver 100,000 eco-friendly factory-built homes to repay ‘historic debt’ owed to key workers

Echoing the ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ programme that welcomed soldiers back from the Western Front in World War I a century ago, a new campaign has been launched to repay the “immeasurable debt of gratitude” owed to a new generation of heroes that wants to create 100,000 affordable homes manufactured in British factories.

Homes for Heroes is a national alliance of housing associations, public figures, business leaders and leading high-tech manufacturers of modular homes. It wants the government to help fund the initiative alongside private investors and housing associations, using public land and innovative new offsite manufacturing techniques which can ensure homes are finished quickly and surpass current energy performance requirements.

As well as building affordable housing for sale and rent, the main societal benefit would be major investment into new modular housing factories likely to come forward if there was a certainty of future demand. Like any manufacturing facility, housing factories such as those in Yorkshire owned by companies such as Legal and General and ilke Homes (featured on BBC Breakfast) are capital-intensive and cannot be turned off and on like traditional construction.

However, homes are built in half the time and are delivered complete to sites. Because they come off a production line, waste is reduced by 90 percent and energy efficiency is double the average UK home.

Creating 100,000 new, factory-built homes on public sector and housing association land over the next five years would deliver a wide range of economic benefits to all corners of the country – by allowing factories to be created all across the industrial heartlands.

The campaign said that the UK’s estimated 7.1m key workers deserve homes that are energy efficient, beautifully designed and digitally connected, with access to private outside areas and high-quality green space, but that many struggled to afford a decent home in their community.

It has called on national and local government to back the campaign with grant funding and other support.

As defined by the UK Government, key workers include NHS workers and carers; people working in education and childcare; those supporting the food chain such as farmers, supermarket workers and delivery drivers; transport workers; those in local and national government; and key public services including the fire service, police and armed forces.

Far from the outdated image of ‘prefab’ homes built after the Second World War, research has found that modern modular homes are on average 20 percent more energy efficient than traditional new homes, and built with 50 percent fewer defects.

Fewer than 20 percent of new homes are built using modern methods of construction, and fewer than five percent are modular, factory-built homes.

The additional demand would leverage additional private sector investment in off-site construction, kick-starting a high-tech manufacturing revolution, creating jobs and boosting regional economies.

Government has sought to boost the delivery of homes using modern methods of construction (MMC) through its delivery agency Homes England’s, while MMC has formed a key plank of several regional mayors’ housing strategies.

Helen Evans, Chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, 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 can 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 will be well designed, with private outdoor space, in convenient well-connected locations for healthcare facilities, schools and other employment hubs.”

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said: “Through our partnerships with placemaking pioneers such as Places for People, our investment with Homes England and our growing pipeline with developers and housing associations, we are seeing growing support for MMC because of the demand for better quality homes where the delivery time and energy use is halved. This is a great initiative to build homes, create jobs and spur on an emerging manufacturing sector that can offer countless benefits to the economy – not just in housing. This is primarily about supporting key workers but it is also about creating more jobs and cleverly pooling resources together to create economies of scale that can help our country create a new, highly-skilled workforce while repaying the amazing workers who have done so much during this difficult period.”

Rosie Toogood, CEO of Legal & General’s modular homes business, said:“Modular construction will enable the delivery of high quality homes at a much faster rate than through traditional construction. In a post Covid-19 crisis environment, the speed of delivery will be more important than ever before. The Homes for Heroes campaign unites several great causes: creating quality homes for genuine heroes, powering innovation and skills right at the time we need to create jobs, and pushing the bar upwards when it comes to quality and sustainability. We’re delighted to support this initiative.”

David Cowans, Group Chief Executive of Places for People, said: “We have long been supporters of MMC as we believe placemaking organisations should be proactive in shaping a greener future for homes that creates less waste and prioritises speed and quality. The Homes for Heroes campaign brings together institutional investors, housing associations and offsite manufacturers around a fantastic initiative that will help provide high-quality modern homes for our key workers and boost this emerging manufacturing sector.”

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy & UK Government MMC Champion for Homebuilding said: “This initiative represents 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. It 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.”

Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Notting Hill Genesis, said: “We appreciate the selfless dedication of staff who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the health of the nation and to support us during the lockdown and after.  It’s time to start a conversation on how we can repay society’s debt to our heroic essential workers.”

Rory O’Hagan, Director at Assael Architecture, said: “We call on the housing industry and government to collaborate in a national effort to develop a shared and interoperable modular system that will deliver homes fit for heroes. Working together, with speed, scale and precision, this collective effort can deliver a knockout blow to outdated delivery models.”

Joseph Daniels, CEO and Founder of Project Etopia Group, said: “Eco-friendly homes should not cost the Earth. This initiative could propel mass, nationwide investment in manufacturing, creating jobs in localised factories and ensuring society’s hardest workers get homes they can afford. The Government has already taken many proactive steps to improve both housing and to help fight climate change. After covid, they must continue to be the driving force in raising standards and helping push the boundaries of what can be achieved. This initiative is a perfect combination of both.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy, British Property Federation comments: “This campaign will strike a chord with many citizens and professionals in the housing sector. Providing better access to new homes, whether they are for rent or sale, is a fantastic way to say thank you to our key workers. We must seek to recapture the ‘can do attitude’ of the original post-war ‘Homes for Heroes’ campaign, and with public land and modern methods of construction there is no reason we cannot pursue the same ambitions of our predecessors, and their determination to build quality homes at pace and scale.”

Mike De’Ath, Partner at HTA Design LLP, said: “The pandemic has become a catalyst for recognising the importance of key workers and also greater collaboration across society. HTA welcomes this initiative to come together, committing to modular manufactured delivery of beautifully designed, low-carbon homes for those we have relied on over the past few months, but have always been there for us.”