A new Homes for Heroes 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.
Echoing the 'Homes fit for Heroes' programme that welcomed soldiers back from the Western Front in World War I a century ago, the new Homes for Heroes campaign 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 campaign says 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 including Legal and General and ilke Homes 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% and energy efficiency is double the average UK home.
Campaign organisers say that 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.
Far from the outdated image of 'prefab' homes built after the Second World War, research has found that modern modular homes are on average 20% more energy efficient than traditional new homes, and built with 50% fewer defects.
Fewer than 20% of new homes are built using modern methods of construction, and fewer than 5% are modular, factory-built homes.
Campaigners say 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 already made a start in seeking to boost the delivery of homes using modern methods of construction (MMC) through its delivery agency Homes England, while MMC has formed a key plank of several regional mayors’ housing strategies.
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said: "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."
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.”