Black Country seeking site to build low-cost, adaptable homes
Landlord to drop standards and grant
A housing association and a council are set to lower the standards of new housing in order to build grant-free homes.
Black Country Housing is in talks with Wolverhampton Council to work up a radical development model that would allow landlords to build a permanent shell with a flexible interior that could easily be converted from a house to flats or have the number of rooms or layout changed.
It is hoped the move will reduce costs by building homes that do not meet housing quality indicator standards required to receive Homes and Communities Agency funding. Savings could be achieved by using pre-assembled kitchens, and eliminating other elements required by HQI, such as upstairs bathrooms and garden sheds.
Richard Baines, director of sustainability at Black Country Housing, said the idea had been met with enthusiasm by housing minister Grant Shapps, but the HCA had confirmed the model would not meet its development standards.
‘We were of the opinion if there was no public funding then we could throw away the rule book and say “what do we actually need to build?”,’ he added. ‘In order to build cheap housing, you have to lose things that you don’t need.’
Black Country hopes the model will reduce build costs to around £40,000 per home - around £20,000 cheaper than the previous government’s attempts to build a £60,000 home - and hopes to pass the savings to tenants through lower rents. It could also make market sale and shared ownership properties more affordable.
The move is part of the 1,800-home, midlands-based housing association’s preparations for a ‘zero grant’ future because there is uncertainty about how much grant the government will provide from 2015.
While the frame and fabric of the building would be long-life fire-proof, sound-proof and very energy efficient - reaching level 5 or 6 of the code for sustainable homes - the partitions and external cladding would be detachable and short-life.
Black Country is working with the council to identify a site where it could build a pilot development that could be expanded nationally.
Andrew Mellow, head of sustainability at PRP Architectsm said: ‘It would be commendable if they could build at that price.’