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£1bn loan fund to support housebuilders

Barclays has partnered with the UK government to provide £1bn of loan finance to support small- and medium-sized housing developers.

Support ranging from £5m to £100m will be made available to developers, overseen by Homes England.

The Housing Delivery Fund will support the development of new homes, including social housing, retirement living and apartments for rent, as well as encouraging greater innovation, such as through the use of brownfield land and urban regeneration projects.

It aims to help open up the housing market; currently almost two-thirds of new homes are built by just ten companies.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire said: “My priority as Housing Secretary is to get Britain building the homes our country needs.  This new fund – partnering Homes England with Barclays – is a further important step by giving smaller builders access to the finance they need to get housing developments off the ground.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to not only get more homes built but also promote new and innovative approaches to construction and design that exist across the housing market.”

John McFarlane, Barclays’ chairman, added: “There is a vital need to build more good quality homes across the country.  This £1bn fund is about helping to do exactly that by showing firms in the business of house building that the right finance is available for projects that help meet this urgent need.

“We are very pleased to be working with government to get the country building more homes, more quickly.”

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UK housebuilders to prefabricate hundreds of homes in factories

One of Britain’s major housebuilders is to prefabricate up to a quarter of its homes in a factory, in the latest attempt by the construction industry to tackle the housing shortage.

Berkeley Homes, which builds 4,000 homes a year, is planning to create a facility in Kent next year where builders will work to produce up to 1,000 houses and apartments annually which will then be craned on to sites.

Another company, nHouse, is setting up a factory in Peterborough with the capacity to build 400 homes a year, complete with light fittings, bathrooms, bookshelves and kitchens. Production is expected to start in January.

It claims it can build a house in 20 days in the factory which can then be erected on site in half a day. Several other developers, including Legal and General and Urban Splash, have also launched prefab home divisions.

Fears of a shortage of skilled construction workers caused by an ageing workforce and an exodus due to Brexit are part of the reason for the revival of prefabrication, which last provided a significant number of homes after the second world war.

The government has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade. Despite recent increases in activity, the last annual figure was 190,000.

A Berkeley spokesman said: “We have acquired a 10-acre brownfield site from the Homes and Communities Agency to build a factory for modular homes in Ebbsfleet, Kent. This will have the potential to deliver up to 1,000 homes a year.

“Construction of the factory could begin next year. While the speed of production and the impact on skills and labour are important factors, our real driver is the quality we can achieve with modular housing.”

The nHouse has been designed by the architect Richard Hywel Evans and is made in four modules from engineered pine panels which are transported on the backs of lorries and are then clipped together on site and connected to pre-existing services. Its built-in features include solar panels, a robot vacuum cleaner and even a drone landing pad – looking forward to a time of aerial deliveries.

A three-bed house is on sale to developers or individual householders from £170,000 to £185,000, which is about the same price as a standard house built using wet trades.

Nick Fulford, the director of nHouse, argues that with 100 workers operating on an indoor production line rather than on muddy building sites in the elements, the homes will suffer from fewer snagging problems.

Source: The Guardian