We are facing a housing crisis - retrofit must be part of the solution

Features Posted 09/11/21
Expert advice from Harry Shackleton, a partner at strategic communications and business transformation consultancy Inflect Partners

The high demand for housing in the South East is nothing new, and with the government committed to reaching its target of 300,000 new homes per year, developers will be excitedly eyeing-up opportunities in these more profitable parts of the country.

Prior to scrapping its use, the government had planned to use an algorithm to calculate where new homes should be built, which had suggested that there should be a 57% increase in new homes built across the South East and a whopping 161% increase in London.

Whilst a more nuanced approach will now be taken, it is clear that a new generation of house building is required - and urgently. Zoopla estimated house prices have risen 51% over the past ten years in the South East, second only to London in the country.

House building is not the only solution to the crisis; we also need to think about how to get the most out of our existing housing stock (and potential housing stock), particularly in areas of the country where planning can be a sensitive issue.

It is estimated that there is property worth more than £3 billion currently vacant across the South East and 17% of homes across the country are thought to still not meet the Decent Homes Standard - a measure first introduced in 2000.

Add into this the challenges for the country in meeting net zero. The built environment is currently responsible for 40% of the UK’s emissions, and it becomes clear that a large, government-led retrofitting programme for housing is required urgently.

A retrofit programme would help tackle a myriad of challenges at once. It could help bring more housing into the market and up to standard; help meet climate goals; address the ongoing fire safety crisis; and help create employment opportunities for a huge range of businesses who are too often shut out of large house building programmes. A programme that delivers on all these fronts must surely contribute to the government’s aim to “build back better” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

That is not to say that retrofit is a substitute for building more homes. It is not, but it should be a core part of a multi-pronged and ambitious approach. Only then will we begin to tackle the housing crisis.

Find out more at www.inflect.co.uk.

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