When Michael Gove unveiled his Homes for Ukraine scheme, I took two clear takeaways.
First, the response from more than 100,000 Brits within just 24 hours underscores our eagerness to provide practical help.
Second, it highlights just how deep the housing crisis really is, with the government turning to us everyday folk for accommodation help.
Indeed, housing our own homeless, vulnerable and elderly is an issue we have yet to resolve. In 1990, 28,000 social homes were built, while in 2020, that figure was less than 7,000. And things are set to get worse: a recent RSM survey revealed that four in five social landlords plan to divert money away from building new homes to fund the Building Safety Act.
The private sector may have an answer, however. Hill Group has paved the way in modular housing, with its ‘Foundation 200’ providing emergency-style accommodation that is quick, safe, cheap and popular. These prefabricated units have been used by councils to house the homeless. Can we take it one step further?
If the government requisitioned a large enough site of poor-quality green belt under emergency powers, 500 pods could be put down quickly. This could create a central place for charities and aid, and keep Ukrainian families and communities together. This seems a wiser choice than using insecure B&B-style accommodation, while plugging the gap in the time-consuming task of vetting hosts under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Walter Cooper is happy to put forward its expertise to find suitable land, and work with partners to make this happen.
There are few industries that can have as big an impact on changing the world as property can. Our flawed planning system is due some much-needed change, but perhaps a humanitarian crisis might kickstart Gove into gear.
Simon Cox, founder and managing director, Walter Cooper