Modular housing is also one of those rare unifiers, with everyone from government and local authorities through to housebuilders keen to investigate the possibilities.
However, throughout the countless debates and discussions, there is one group that is never mentioned or given a seat at the table, despite being, arguably, the most important player in the long term – those living in these new modular homes, whether as homeowners or tenants.
A great deal of investment is being ploughed into modular construction for the housing industry, yet very little user testing has been carried out.
While I’m convinced the modular homes coming off production lines are of high quality, do people actually want to live in them? Are they seen as more desirable than traditional builds, or perhaps less so? Can we proceed in confidence, knowing that we’re building homes people want to live in?
Although initial build quality is evident, there remain questions around lifespan and longevity, and whether any updates, renovations or even minor works that pierce the ‘skin’ of the structure will have a negative impact on energy efficiency. Do modular homes offer the flexibility that a traditionally built property would?
When we build new stock, we do so knowing it will last at least 130 years, yet there is talk of modular lasting just 60. Can it be right that we’re creating new homes with half the lifespan of traditional build?
If we’re to banish the housing crisis for good, it is vital we build new homes to last – not as a short-term fix – particularly given that the cost of modular is higher than traditional build. Without ensuring longevity, we’re merely kicking the can down the road.
We must use modular to move forwards, not backwards. If it is to succeed, it is certainly time to broaden the conversation.
Tim Pinder, chief executive, Peaks & Plains Housing Trust