An eye on RHPi | A regular blog from RHP’s Chief Executive David Done
What the White Paper means for us
Last week the government released the long-awaited housing White Paper billed to ‘fix the broken housing market’.
Although there’s not a great deal of ‘new news’ in the paper I am pleased to see a number of the key points included are in line with things we’re already making head way with at RHP:
Diversification is key
We all know that providing more options for affordable home ownership are important however the plan also stresses a need for diversifying the market. Sajid Javid, Communities secretary, said: “We are determined to make housing more affordable and secure for ordinary working people and have a rental market that offers much more choice”
I totally agree with this. That’s why at RHP we’re planning to diversify our business by offering a broader range of housing products to meet a wider range of housing needs which includes a mix of shared ownership and affordable rent products. One of the ways we’ll do this is by building some homes for the intermediate market – for housing local people who cannot afford to rent or buy but who don’t have any priority for housing via local authority housing registers.
A production line of homes
If you know anything about RHP or have read my past blogs you’ll know that we believe passionately that innovation is key if the sector is going to tackle the housing crisis. We’re using innovation in a number of ways: It’s nearly 12 months since we launched the UK’s first digital only housing service for new customers (which we’re pleased to say is receiving excellent satisfaction figures) and are working closely with a number of start-ups as one of the first hosts of the Housemark Evolve programme. We’ve also been innovating in the way we build homes through exploring factory build modular homes. The White Paper states:
‘By increasing innovation and making greater use of modern methods of construction we can change this. Industry reports suggest homes constructed offsite can be built up to 30% more quickly than traditional methods and with a potential 25% reduction in costs’.
RHP will be one of the first housing associations to construct homes made in a £55m factory in Leeds established by institutional investor Legal & General (L&G). We’ve been working with architects Wimshurst Pelleriti on a prototype of the flat which will be appearing in our office backyard next month! We’ve put in pre-application for planning for a site of 30 flats for affordable rent in Richmond using these ‘pod’ homes. The new product would be aimed towards the intermediate market and could be particularly suitable for the mayor of London's London Living Rent, which sets rents in line with a third of an area's mean household income.
Green vs brown: the big land debate
There’s been much debate over the restrictions put in place to build on green belt land with many arguing it’s a necessity if we’re to end the housing crisis. The White Paper confirmed that there is no change to the government’s policy of only allowing development on green belt land in exceptional circumstances. Only 13% of land in the UK is actually green belt and therefore we believe that the key thing is to think creatively about how you use brown field land. In the past year alone we’ve converted old office blocks, knocked garages down and have even reinvented an old police station to provide more homes for affordable rent and home ownership. We’ve also kicked off two major regeneration schemes which will lead to higher density on both sites as an opportunity to build more. If we going to achieve our goal of investing £250M over the next 8 years in building more homes, we’re going to have to keep looking for opportunities for land in unusual places.
So although there’s nothing terribly new in the paper, for us it presents opportunities rather than barriers. I’m positive that at RHP we’re already well ahead of the game on a number of the points included and hope that it increases momentum within the sector to do the right thing for the areas we all operate in, providing more options for affordable rent and home ownership for more people and making headway in ‘fixing the broken housing market’.