“Pre-fab to ab-fab”: Modern take on the prefab home set to boost Welsh housing supply

(Title Image: Wernick Buildings)

In a break from the flood-related questions and statements, Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) made a statement on a £45million investment in the modular home industry.

Quicker, greener, locally-sourced

The Minister reminded AMs that modern modular homes are a far cry from the poorer-quality post-war prefabs. Modular homes can reduce construction waste by up to 90%, can be built faster than traditionally-constructed homes and can meet stricter environmental standards.

“Our plans provide real opportunity for Welsh (modular home) producers, many of which are SMEs and family-run, supporting Welsh businesses in finding a home-grown solution and strengthening Welsh suppliers. Linked to this is the longer-term use of Welsh timber in house building.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

£20million will be made available to modular home businesses to provide social housing and a further £25million will be used in the next phase of the Innovative Housing Programme. One of the key tasks facing the government is ensuring the right skills for this method of construction are in place.

There was a mostly positive reaction from AMs.

Shadow Housing Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), said the Conservatives had long supported this method of construction and there were a lot of advantages which make it a more attractive career option – namely that most of the work is done indoors. He did, however, raise hang-ups from the insurance industry which demand extreme precision when putting the buildings together.

Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) said this was a step in the right direction, but asked for more details on the number of homes that could be built this way and how many would be social housing instead of the “unaffordable affordable homes” counted in government statistics. She also saw an opportunity to strengthen planning rules to ensure developers can’t get around affordable home requirements seeing as modular homes cost less to build.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) offered a note of caution that construction methods which were considered modern in the 1960s quickly became dated and led to homes having to be demolished and rebuilt. Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) wondered whether there would be enough Welsh-sourced timber for the homes in the first place?

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) wanted assurances that planning authorities can refuse poor development proposals that cost large amounts of money to rectify, while Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) called for specific qualifications to be introduced relating to modular construction.

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