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Greening the market – new tie-up set to deliver eco-friendly homes

A leading modular housing company has partnered with housing provider Stonewater to deliver 120 affordable eco-homes to Hereford in a deal worth £23 million.

The deal between Stonewater and ilke Homes follows the latter’s recent expansion of its business with new offices in London, Birmingham and Bristol, as well as its creation of a new ‘homes and development unit’ to manage the near-200% annual growth of the company’s demand pipeline.

The new factory-built housing development, which is described as being 100% affordable, will use modern methods of construction (MMC) and will see ilke Homes provide the land for development alongside manufacturing the 120 brand-new homes for Stonewater. This is set to be achieved at its 250,000 sq ft factory in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

The company says the ‘turnkey’ deal – which saw ilke Homes acquire the land from a private landowner – is the latest step in its evolution from manufacturing homes to becoming a fully-integrated developer.

With support from Homes England, the currently derelict site – the former Holmer Trading Estate – is set to be transformed to help tackle the rising demand for affordable housing in Herefordshire.

Once completed, all the homes will be available for ‘either affordable rent or shared ownership’ and will be equipped with fully-fitted kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, affordable housing delivery in England grew by 22% to 57,485 in 2018/19. Nevertheless, housing charity Shelter says there is a national housing waiting list of more than 1.1 million households, underlining the need for more affordable homes.

Homes manufactured in a factory can be built in half the time of those built using traditional construction, ilke Homes says, resulting in ‘better-quality buildings with fewer defects’.

The firm says that building homes in factories will be crucial to quickly upscaling the delivery of affordable housing, as the UK looks to kickstart the construction industry’s recovery in the wake of Covid-19.

Furthermore, the home-builder insists that a controlled factory environment ensures that homes have superior energy efficiency and can be run on a little as £1-a-day, which will save Stonewater’s customers hundreds of pounds on their energy bills every year.

Homes England – a non-departmental public body, sponsored by MHCLG - has recognised MMC’s capacity to deliver affordable housing after the agency invested £30 million into ilke Homes in November 2019. Stonewater, together with the Guinness Partnership, is also a strategic partner to Homes England and received £224 million to deliver 4,500 affordable homes by 2022.

Matthew Bench, executive director of partnerships at ilke Homes, said: “The need for affordable housing has never been more acute, and with construction having been paused on sites up and down the country, speed will be absolutely vital. By packaging up private land with turnkey development solutions in partnership with housing associations such as Stonewater, we can quickly scale-up the delivery of high-quality, energy-efficient affordable housing across the country.” 

He added: “Our recent expansion into new regions gives us a greater national reach and with wide-ranging offerings including providing superstructures, turnkey solutions and full land-led developments, we can truly drive the benefits that come from off-site manufacturing.”

Matthew Crucefix, director of development (west) at Stonewater, said that scaling-up the delivery of affordable homes is vital to ensuring that everyone in the UK has a place to call home. He believes the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has meant it’s never been more important to increase housing supply where it is safe to do so.

“This scheme is exactly the type of progressive development opportunity that will help meet the challenge we face to provide the affordable homes needed to tackle the housing crisis,” he commented.

Gordon More, chief investments officer at Homes England, added: “Our strategic partnerships with housing associations are an important part of our commitment to delivering more affordable homes across the country. Utilising modern methods of construction is crucial to building new homes at the pace required, so it’s fantastic to see Stonewater using their strategic partnership with Guinness to collaborate with a leading off-site manufacturer like ilke Homes.”

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