Unlocking brownfield sites through 'PropTech': a solution to the housing crisis?

Gonzalo Marquesini, 11 February 2021

Since the 1970s, house building in the UK has declined, failing year after year to keep up with the demand for new and affordable homes. The lack of housing has given rise to a host of housing-related, socio-economic issues including generation rent, rising homelessness levels and a growing need for temporary housing.

So, where did it all go wrong? In 1970/71, the UK’s delivery of housing was booming, with the public sector providing 49.5% of the 362,230 homes built that year. Since public sector funding cuts, the number of properties built by the public sector has reduced significantly – and hasn’t recovered since. Despite the unprecedented need for good quality, affordable housing just half of the 340,000 homes required each year are being built.

Shifting the balance of power

Private house builders dominate the market but have been unable to compensate for the lack of public sector house building. To close the gap between housing supply and demand, new measures are needed to increase the supply of affordable housing at scale.

In 2019/20, just 10 private house builders delivered 47% of the new homes built that year, highlighting the pressing need to diversify UK housing delivery. Slow, expensive and unreliable processes continue to be adopted, yet these outdated business models are no longer fit for purpose. It’s not until we embrace new technology and business models that we will have a real chance of tackling the housing crisis.

There’s enough readily available brownfield land to deliver over 1 million homes, so why are we not building the homes we need? The public sector owns swathes of developable land, yet lacks the resources to develop the smaller, trickier sites. By shifting the balance of power and unlocking public sector capacity constraints we can enable the public sector to deliver more affordable homes and help the government reach its target of building 300,000 homes a year.

With the UK in its third national lockdown, it’s no surprise that housing is having a huge impact on our health and mental wellbeing. People have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic because of their housing and figures show that those in overcrowded accommodation are more likely to be affected. Now more than ever, the UK needs a new solution that supports broader social and economic outcomes by boosting the public sector’s delivery of affordable housing.

So, what’s the solution?

Combining technology with new business models has the potential to completely restructure and evolve industries, such as Airbnb revolutionising tourism and Uber changing the way the world hails a taxi.

This is exactly what we’re working towards at RenKap. In the way that Uber connects people to drivers, RenKap connects public sector landowners to vetted suppliers who can deliver housing on underutilised, brownfield land. We’re reimagining the future of housing delivery with a brand new, tech-enabled solution, the Development Management Platform, which will allow any public sector organisation to instantly boost their in-house development capacity. This model has the opportunity to facilitate over 20,000 homes by 2025.

Made up of five products (Site Identification, Site Investigation, Automated Feasibility, Design & Planning and Construction) the platform has been designed to tackle key issues at each stage of the development process. This includes a clear focus on aggregation for offsite construction, much like the NHF’s Building Better initiative.

For our team, tackling the UK housing crisis isn’t about supply numbers, but about leveraging technology and new business models that enable the public sector to once again deliver high quality affordable homes at scale.

Keen to find out more about RenKap’s mission?

We’ve caught government attention and have recently won InnovateUK funding, validating the market need for our Development Management Platform. Find out more and get in touch to request a demo.

We will provide a 10% discount to any NHF member.