Dec 14, 2018 Last Updated 3:15 PM, Dec 14, 2018

The Epwin Group unveils the verdicts from a recent social housing survey

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What’s driving change in social housing design and build? Are the factors different now than they were 10 years ago? Epwin Group, a leading manufacturer and supplier of PVC-U windows, doors and fascia systems, has surveyed UK social housing professionals to find out.

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The ‘Building for the Future’ social housing project tackles these questions, combining the results of this survey with in-depth interviews and desktop research.

Here Andrew Reid, Commercial Sales Director of Epwin Window Systems, discusses the research and some of its findings.

At Epwin Group, we have placed innovation at the heart of everything we do, constantly developing new solutions and technologies to meet the demands of an ever-evolving built environment.

To do this, we must always be listening, learning and better understanding the challenges facing our customers.

Epwin has a proud history of working in social housing, and we have learnt that social landlords have their own unique demands, so we decided to ask them what’s driving change in the design and build of social homes and examine the factors specific to that sector.

The survey asked social housing professionals to score 20 factors for their impact on social housing design and build. The research project examines the top 10 factors that social housing professionals believe will have the most significant impact on social housing design and build over the coming decade versus the last.

The results

The top 10 factors identified highlight concerns over the ability to deliver the quantity of social housing needed to meet demand. Many of these factors were also leading concerns of the last 10 years, but are thought to be even more significant challenges for the coming decade.

The top two leading factors remain the same for the coming decade as the last; the lack of land available for development and lower budgets. In both cases, close to 80% of respondents believe they will be significant over the next 10 years; that’s up over 10% from the last.

The demand for housing consistently outstripping supply is also in the top five with close to 70% of respondents identifying it as one of the most significant issues.

These factors combined with the UK’s ever-increasing urban populations (44% consider this significant) and the financial pressure being caused by Welfare Reform (56% consider this significant) are all negatively affecting the ability of social housing providers to develop affordable homes.

As the housing deficit increases every year and house prices are pushed further up, many fear that it is an almost impossible task to meet current, let alone future demand.

One survey respondent commented that the chronic shortage of homes in this country will push house prices and rents further and further up. Spending on housing benefits will continue to increase, and we’ll see the impact of further negative consequences – families being pushed into poverty by housing costs, communities divided by incomes and many people finding themselves further and further away from labour markets and better-paid jobs.

Concerns also exist surrounding the type of homes being developed and whether they meet the needs of our evolving population. The UK’s ageing population is a significant concern for survey respondents (67%), and when you consider the statistics, it’s easy to understand why. The scale of an ageing population is massive – it is predicted that by the mid-2030s, there will be over 16 million older people, with nearly three million of them being over 85.

Although social landlords provide most specialist housing, the pace at which additional units are being developed is vastly outstripped by the growth of the older population.

Building safety was the factor that showed the largest shift in the proportion of survey respondents considering it to be a concern influencing social housing design and build for the coming decade (67%) in comparison to those identifying it as a significant factor over the last 10 years (28%).

This increase in significance is not surprising when you consider that the Grenfell fire, which tragically killed more than 70 people and left hundreds without permanent homes, remains fresh in the memory and at the forefront of the housing agenda.

The Hackitt review into the fire makes it very clear that poor oversight in the building industry led to a ‘race to the bottom’, and that the current system for implementing fire safety measures if not fit for purpose.

With concerns regarding quality, safety and the type of homes being developed, the survey has painted a rather bleak picture of UK social housing. However, there is hope, and despite these pressures, some consider the UK to be at a turning point in its delivery of social housing.

The Government is promising increased funding, and there is a belief that more homes will be built and that improvement of new-build quality will be driven by stricter standards. Many also believe that homes will be built with greater adaptability to suit the needs of our changing population and that they will be constructed within sustainable communities which better meet the needs of their residents.

One survey respondent commented that housing is now high on the political agenda and in public discussion, and there is a general feeling that building standards and safety will improve, driven by legislative change and greater funding from the treasury, he concluded that it’s unfortunate that it took Grenfell for this to happen.

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