Banks’ appetite to lend threatens offsite take-up, warns major landlord

15th August, 2019

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group director development and sales at L&Q, told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing's annual conference in Manchester that the progress of offsite would be halted if banks were nervous about offering retail mortgages to buyers or helping institutions to fund development.

"We need to make sure there's a better conversation about what's going on with the banks," she said. "If we cannot secure debt against these portfolios [of offsite housing] then we will not make this work."

Ms Fletcher-Smith admitted that L&Q had been "slow and head down" when it came to adopting offsite manufacturing. However, she said the 95,000-home association would need to make significant use of modern methods of construction (MMC) to achieve its ambition of building 100,000 homes in 10 years.

"In the next few months, you will hear much more from L&Q about how MMC will be a major part of that journey," she said.

L&Q signed a deal in February with Stewart Milne Timber Systems to deliver frames for more than 1,500 homes, marking the association's first foray into offsite.

Ms Fletcher-Smith said that using MMC would help to improve the quality of the new housing it can provide. She told delegates that she had seen an L&Q home built by traditional methods in South London where sprinklers had not been connected to the water system and fire alarms had not been connected to the electricity supply.

"We are putting people's lives at risk and it's not good enough," she added.

She said that although offsite manufacturing was still expensive, the improved quality could result in long-term savings.

"It's the long-term management costs that matter to us as well," she concluded. "I see MMC as saving more over the whole life cycle of a building."

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