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We can build one million homes a year - here's how


By Aaron – Layout and Design Editor


In this article, Aaron calls for the building of one million homes a year, and he has an idea about how we can do it. Having experienced homelessness himself, resorting to living in a tent for a short time, he knows first hand what the housing shortage means in reality.



One Million Homes

Mass flat building doesn't have to be ugly, as this scheme in Reading demonstrates - Google Earth imagery

One of our basic needs in life is a secure, safe, comfortable, and affordable home. From this secure base we can gain employment, build a social life, and integrate into society. The absence of secure and affordable housing, on the other hand, can be emotionally and financially draining, leaving little energy to think about anything or anyone else. Today, in the UK, too many people find themselves in this situation. According to Shelter, 3.5 million people are categorised as homeless and in need right now. The Big Issue magazine, sold by homeless people in the UK, claims that 271,000 are 'street homeless'. And a report from the National Housing Federation quotes an even higher figure of 8.5 million people having some form of unmet housing need (2021).


If you are about to lose your home you are classed as homeless. If you have lost your home entirely and are living on the street, you are classed as street homeless. But if you are living on a friend's sofa, in your car, in a tent (as I was, in a friend's garden) or in temporary accommodation of any kind, you are considered 'housed' and not on a priority list. You can get on the housing register, but it is down to you to 'bid' against other needy people. Charities advise you to be evicted from your home, so that the council is then forced to put you into a bed and breakfast or a hostel. These have time limitations however. Only people deemed homeless or facing imminent eviction can get on the housing register, and although there may be an additional two million people like me who are renting privately in homes they cannot afford, there is no way to apply for social housing as you are deemed housed and safe. Additionally, there is a constant stream of desperate people entering the UK who are also seeking housing.

Political pledges

In their recent manifestos, all the major political parties have pledged to build in the region of 300,000 homes per year (an extract from the 2019 Conservative manifesto is shown on the right). And yet, according to the think tank Centre for Cities, 'Britain has a backlog of 4.3 million homes that are missing from the national housing market as they were never built. This housing deficit would take at least half a century to fill even if the Government’s current target to build 300,000 homes a year is reached.' UK housing charity Shelter has estimated that over one million households are waiting for social homes. So aiming to build one million homes in one year would, I suggest, be a reasonable target for a radical and progressive new government.


One million homes

The idea of building one million new homes in a year is daunting. When I talked about housing in relation to immigration at a recent Dorset Humanists event (see video link below from 18.30) I did not think it was a practical possibility. However, I am now proposing this in all seriousness. These one million homes would be affordable and built using a combination of central government, local council, and Housing Association funding, together with some private non-profit venture capital funding. All homes would be of the same standard and priced according to regional benchmarks. One million homes a year would be in addition to the government's standard housing target of 300,000, until such time as the housing backlog has been cleared.


According to ONS (Office for National Statistics), there are 112 major towns and cities in the UK. One million new homes spread equally between them would equate to nearly 9,000 homes per town or city. In reality, of course, the distribution of these one million homes would depend on a range of factors including available land and housing need. However, I struggle to imagine how even 3,500 traditional homes could be built in my own conurbation, because of the shortage of land and builders. So I would like to propose a radically-different approach.


Mass production of modular homes

With the UK Labour Party proposing to create Great British Energy, which would be a publicly-owned energy company to invest in clean UK power, I would like to propose a government-created and publicly-owned building company that would be similar in nature, and dedicated to the mass production of modular homes – or 'Studio Pods' as I am calling them. Let's call my proposed company 'Great British Homes'. Studio Pods would be mass-produced in factories and then shipped out flat-packed for rapid assembly on-site. Fully kitted-out with Ikea-style fitted furniture, they would be ready to move into with just the basics needed to make them into a home. Of course, Studio Pods would not be suitable for everyone and they would not meet the entire housing need of my local area, but I envisage them making up at least a third of the new homes needed.


Regeneration

In my view, there are a lot of homes that really need to be flattened. Great British Homes could help to regenerate old, ugly and run-down areas. These are the places that few private firms are prepared to buy and redevelop. But a publicly-owned enterprise could take on the challenge. Rather than residents having to put up with these decaying areas they could be brought back to life.


More about Studio Pods

More details about my proposal for mass production of compact housing are provided in this downloadable PDF. I sent a copy of this to the government a few years ago but, sadly, I did not get any response! Undeterred, I've made good use of it on social media and at a local event in which we held a mock election for a humanist prime minister. Sooner or later, it may get some recognition along the way. We shall see.


Each home built would eventually save the government money by eliminating the bill for Housing Benefit. Assuming Housing Benefit is £535 per month (£6,420 per annum), someone living in private rented accommodation would receive £128,400 benefit over 20 years with no account for inflation. But if you put a person in a council-owned Studio Pod costing, say, £50,000, then over eight years it will have paid for itself, compared to Housing Benefit. (See note below on the £50,000 costing.)


People who might benefit from Studio Pods include:

  • Students moving from student accommodation and wanting to avoid the choice of high rents or being forced to return to their parents' home.

  • People needing to leave abusive relationships, who might otherwise have to stay with an abusive partner.

  • Single people leaving the armed services, especially those who were stationed aboard and would return to the UK with potentially nothing.

  • Prisoners leaving custody, who may not be able to return home, or may have lost their home due to their time away. Not being able to afford housing is a path straight back to crime.

  • Homeless people who are not able to take on the responsibility of managing a house, or who can't afford a flat, can live in a Studio Pod and make one single payment each month which takes care of everything.

  • People looking to move out of private renting and into something that is more affordable and cost effective.

So what do you think? Can we do it? Should we do it? What downsides can you spot?


Note on the £50,000 price tag for a Studio Pod – where does this figure come from?


From watching Homes under the Hammer and Grand Designs, it became evident to me that a single flat (unit) could be built for £50,000 once the land has been acquired (in pre-Covid prices). Land prices vary of course, but I envisage that many councils could build Studio Pods on land they already own, and stacked up to 5 storeys high. £50,000 is based on brick/concrete/breeze blocks, built on-site in any weather, with all the delays and complications involved. Pods would be produced in a factory and delivered by lorry. They would be connected to pre-laid ground works and a concrete slab with built-in drainage. Once the required amount are built they would be wrapped in bricks or blocks and have a roof added. Actual Pod construction could well cost half of this figure, but factoring in the end sealing and finishing, I'm going with £50,000 as a more realistic estimate. And remember, as these are government-built, there will essentially be no profit margin. Factory workers will be on a set salary, building on a continuous production line, churning out hundreds of Pods a month. That we aren't already doing this is truly shocking.


The housing problem in the UK

Why not watch my ten-minute pitch on the right where I explain the housing problem in the UK. This talk was given to Dorset Humanists in the context of a debate on immigration.









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Eric Hayman
Eric Hayman
01 jun 2023

What a horrendous thought - one million new houses, flats, pods, etc. And why? Primarily not because of an increase in the British population in the UK; but because the government is so inept at preventing illegal arrivals (they are not 'immigrants') at our shores, and refusing to send back almost all of those without legitimate cause to live in the UK. An example: there are 80 Albanians criminals in prison in the UK. 80 Albanians with no right to be here, so I read. Albania is at war with nobody, so why have they not been deported. Why are our taxes keeping them?


"In the twelve months to December 2022, approximately 1.16 million people migrated to the United Kingdom,…


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Contestando a

Hi Eric, truly delighted to receive a response to my article, let me try and address your points. All persons entering the UK are immigrants, I think you are trying to argue that they aren't refugees. This would be accurate. Further, anyone arriving from anywhere but France through France are not stopping at the first…or even second, third or fourth safe country, thus are also not refugees. You mention 80 Albanians prisoners. If a person living here commits a crime, they are sent to prison. If they happen to be of Albanian heritage, that's as maybe. 80 out of a prison population of 85,000 is a drop in the ocean, and 80 out of 600,000 entrants equally so. In 'Aaron world'…

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