Industry leaders call for change in housing sector to ensure wellbeing of customers

industryWe need to be braver and invest in change within the industry to ensure the quality of homes whilst also building at scale. That’s according to sector influencers at VIVID’s Housing Forum who gathered to debate the importance of quantity and quality.

The forum brought together 150 industry leaders, professionals and commentators to debate the impact of build quality on customer wellbeing amid a housing crisis. The forum was facilitated by VIVID Chief Executive, Mark Perry and speakers included, Polly Toynbee, Guardian journalist, broadcaster and author, Rosie Toogood, CEO of Legal & General Modular Homes, Paul Kitson, Director – Markets, Partners, Places at Homes England and Mike Shepherd, VIVID’s Director of New Business and Development.

During the event experts focussed on the impact of austerity on the housing industry over the last 10 years and how this has translated to customers. Drawing on aspects from her forthcoming new book ‘The Lost Decade’, Polly Toynbee highlighted the correlation between government cuts and the increase in homelessness and decrease in average pay and affordable homes.

Polly said: “Over the last decade, we’ve seen the erosion of social housing due to lack of funding and schemes such as Right to Buy. Housing has become a piggy bank for private investment. It’ll take at least 10 years for us to recover and get back to where we were in 2009. We then we need to strive forward together. It will take very heavy lifting but it can be done. Now is a good time for construction when the state can borrow at low interest rates — so long as a significant part of that investment is in housing and it’s built to last.”

A wide range of aspects were discussed in relation to build quality including safety, security, creating community spirit and energy efficiency.

Acknowledging the continuing need to build more affordable homes, industry leaders highlighted that focussing too heavily on the number of homes being built across the country can have a negative impact on the quality of existing homes and the build of new ones.

Mark Perry, Chief Executive of VIVID, said: “We operate in an environment where the need for homes is as great as it’s been for a generation. We believe in more homes, bright futures, so whilst we need to build in volume to give everyone a place to call home, what’s equally significant is to consider what’s important to those living in our homes so they can thrive. The quality of homes being built and repair standards of existing homes has been impacted. The only way to change this is to invest in changing the industry. We need to be braver in improving the methods of housebuilding, trade skills and forming greater partnerships.”

Rosie Toogood, CEO of Legal and General Modular Homes added: “The customer defines value and we’ve got a lot to learn. To drive quality, productivity and shorten lead times on homes it’s imperative the sector looks at investing more in the training of its workforce. This will give greater capabilities and deliver more innovation. Modern methods of construction, like modular homes, allows us to be able to define quality better and build quickly. We manufacture so many products across the country, we should be manufacturing homes at scale too.”

The forum also covered the importance of the community when it comes to customer wellbeing with Polly Toynbee highlighting the need for investment in community organisers in new developments to help neighbourhoods thrive.

She said, “Communities don’t automatically happen on new estates, it’s important to appoint in organisers and make spaces where people can meet and come together.”

Paul Kitson, Director – Markets, Partners, Places at Homes England commented: “In a modern era, technology like social media can also help boost communities.”

Investment into energy efficiency also needs to be high on the government’s priority list say the speakers. All agreed that gas boilers should be eradicated from homes and replaced with renewable energy alternatives. Eco-friendly build methods should also be adopted to look after the local environment and keep customers bills low.

Later in the year a new research project will start on the quality v quantity of social housing provision which VIVID has commissioned in partnership with the University of Birmingham and their Centre for Household Assets and Savings Management.

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