Agenda item

Bristol Housing Festival and Modern Methods of Construction

Minutes:

The Executive Director for Growth and Regeneration introduced the item and explained that the purpose of this report was to update the Scrutiny Commission on ongoing work in relation to:

  • The Bristol Housing Festival
  • The council’s emerging approach to ‘Offsite Manufacture Housing’ and ‘Modern Methods of Construction’ (OSM & MMC)
  • The first two innovation projects we are taking forward under the banner of the Bristol Housing Festival.

 

Officers highlighted that this was an emerging industry but that it is very hard for smaller players in the building / housing industry market to contribute.  It was suggested that the vision that emerged from the Housing Festival could provide some of the solutions. These will however need to be tested test in the real world. 

 

  • It was reported that 6,500 thousand people attended the housing festival and the response from attendees was very positive.  The Council is working with Homes England and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) on taking some the concepts forward.  
  • Ideas for delivering faster affordable housing (AH) in Bristol are also being explored.
  • Members were taken through some slides that explained new concepts and ideas such as the ZedPods.  Chalks Road in St George was one of the sites currently being explored.  Officers said efforts were being made to make the ZedPods 100% affordable as young people can only receive £70 per week Housing Support.
  • Officers said that the creation and investment in local jobs was also another major factor in these projects.  Some of the smaller suppliers are particularly keen to demonstrate what they can do.

 

The following points were among those discussed and asked by the Members of the Commission:

  • Could people get mortgages for these types of homes?  It was replied that these types of accommodation are mainly for renting.  They have a warranty for 60 years.  They are ‘prefabs’ and good quality which is essential.  It was said however that discussions are taking place with an ethical bank about potential future funding opportunities.  One Member said that he was aware of a building society that is trying to come up with arrangements for mortgages for modular homes. 
  • The future of building council houses was briefly discussed and it was asked if some of them could be built along these lines, perhaps via the Councils Housing Company.  Yes that was a possibility but officers said they aren’t yet at that point but it was being discussed. 
  • Members said they were generally impressed by what was being shared with them but expressed some slight frustration at the pace of things happening.  Officers said they were very keen to be able to demonstrate that modern methods of construction can be delivered at pace and that they are continually learning by testing new ideas. 
  • Members asked how the modular homes sit with regards to current planning regulations size standards. Officers said there were some challenges with the national space standards which came into practice several years ago.  These are being looked at in light of the current housing crisis.  There is also work being undertaken locally  as there is definite appetite for some very small units and BCC would like to take a flexible approach to this particularly for those modules which are to rent.  A Member commented that size standards had also become an issue at planning committees where many people object to houses being split up into small flats resulting in the number family size houses being reduced. Officers said that there were now a number of key issues that require up-dated planning guidance and practice notes.  This would also help to ensure potential developers don’t need to get all the way to planning committee stage before they can gauge if it’s like they might get the go-ahead.
  • Members asked if new methods of construction will require fewer numbers of workers and different types of skills than traditional house building would.  Yes ‘different skills sets’ was the response but this would hopefully be a hub and spoke approach with a view to ensuring that SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are also part of the whole process. 

 

The Commission thanked the Officers for their time.

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