From modular commuter villages to innovative finance models, developers are finding new, inventive solutions to tackle the UK housing crisis
1. Modular commuter villages
Smart, quickly constructed modular commuter villages, located on the periphery of overcrowded urban centres, can provide affordable new housing stock while alleviating the inner-city housing crisis, according to Project Etopia.
Its first modular village, under development in Corby, Northamptonshire, includes 47 turnkey homes equipped with in-home internet of things technology, renewable energy, and intelligent heating and cooling systems.
The houses, which are fully mortgageable and have a lifespan of 60 to 100 years, are constructed offsite – four houses can be built in 34 days – and shipped worldwide. They are also affordable; a four-bedroom house in the Corby development costs between £320,000 and £350,000, compared with £450,000 to £575,000 for new, nearby brick-and-mortar houses, according to the company.
“Modular commuter villages offer younger would-be homeowners the wage benefits of working in the capital, but without the high property costs,” says founder Joseph Daniels.
Etopia Corby is the company’s first project, but it is already developing others in the United States, Spain, Namibia and Kuwait. Mr Daniels says the company is also acquiring land in the UK to build a series of connected eco villages that will facilitate smart energy-sharing.
2. Specialist senior housing
Providing good quality accommodation for over-65s can free up large under-occupied family homes for younger generations to help tackle the housing crisis. Yet only around 3 per cent of homes in the UK are built specially for older people, even though around 18 per cent of the population, around 12 million, are aged 65 and over.
ExtraCare Charitable Trust has developed several affordable retirement villages that it claims have freed up more than 750 local family homes.
To make its projects viable, the trust has focused on economies of scale and being a dedicated healthcare provider, which means it has access to government funds to help pay for often uneconomic communal spaces.
For example, it’s £48-million Longbridge Retirement Village in Birmingham, built on a disused car factory, comprises 260 one and two-bed apartments, plus a village hall, bar, bistro, gym and more.
“Good retirement living requires community spaces, but funding this while making units affordable can be challenging. However, we’re seeing exciting models enter the market, such as providing other services such as healthcare,” says Louise Drew, head of real estate at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, which worked on the Longbridge development.
Besides freeing up housing stock, senior housing can have other benefits. According to a recent study with Aston University, ExtraCare residents reduced their dependence on GP and hospital services, resulting in a 38 per cent reduction in NHS costs per person each year.