In my Liverpool Home

Pete McGovern sang about setting up home in Speke and I was there this afternoon to see the cutting edge in housing construction as I opened the state of the art factory at Ideal Modular homes. What sounds complicated is actually really simple – modular construction is where sections of a building are produced away from the building site and then assembled on site. A bit like an IKEA wardrobe but on a much bigger scale! And it has the potential to revolutionise our housing market.

Housing is absolutely crucial to our city. It’s something I have always been passionate about, it’s why improving our housing offer was one of my Mayoral pledges and is a key part of my Inclusive Growth Plan for the city.

We have a strong track record of delivery, from bringing nearly 4000 properties into use through council interventions since I became Mayor in 2012 to launching our own housing company – Foundations – to give more people a leg up on the property ladder and build the homes we need for the future

But we can’t sit back and be complacent, we need to build more houses and go even further to rebalance our housing stock. Why do we need to do this?

To meet demand

We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the country – our population has grown by almost 45,000 since 2001 and is expected to reach almost 500,000 by 2024. We’re famous the world over for our warm welcome and I want Liverpool to be a place where everyone – from born and bred Scousers to those who choose to make our city their home – lives in quality homes in thriving neighbourhoods. A quality housing offer is a critical piece of the jigsaw in making our city an attractive place to work, live and play.

To give people a better quality of life

Home is so important, good quality housing gives people the stability to transform their lives. We know the benefits that good quality housing delivers; from improving mental and physical health to helping educational achievement. You only need to walk round Anfield Village to see what a difference quality housing makes to a whole community.

To protect vital services

Our city has achieved a historic renaissance over the past few decades but we can only sustain that growth by remaining ambitious.

By 2020 we will have lost 100% of our Local Government funding through the Rate Support Grant, meaning the future prosperity of our city hinges on creating our own revenue streams.

We know that our housing offer needs improving – 70% of our housing is in Bands A&B, the lowest bands. That means for every one per cent of council tax, we raise just £1.6m. In Surrey it’s £6m. That’s the disparity we need to tackle and why we need to grow our business base, create more housing and improve our housing mix across the city to improve the sustainability of our core finances. Only by doing this will we be able to look after our City and all those who live within it.

But we can’t just build houses, we need to work with our stakeholders and partners to completely rethink how we should be living and building the homes we need for the future.

That brings me back to my visit to Speke this afternoon…

Ideal share our ambition to do things differently and ‘rethink the conventional’. They opened the first modular construction factory in the North West and in challenging financial times have gone from strength to strength – proof of which is the refurbished facility I was there to open.

Modular homes may still be quite a new concept here but we’ve seen its success over in America and across Europe. Just yesterday the National House Building Council warned that if we don’t embrace this method national house building targets will be missed. I predict we will see much more modular construction in years to come and this modern facility – which can turn around a two storey house in less than 5 days! – means we have a company in our own back garden ideally placed to meet that demand.

I saw for myself what they can do at the factory, producing anything from family housing estates to luxury villas, and was blown away by the knowledge of staff, the attention to detail and incredible facilities.

Luke Barnes, the CEO, embodies Scouse entrepreneurial spirit – he saw a gap in the market, backed himself to offer something better and then delivered with aplomb. I’m delighted that as a loyal Liverpudlian he not only started the business in Speke, but it is now growing and expanding, creating more jobs and prosperity for the people of our city