Modular homes central to UKIP housing policy
The mass factory production of modular housing is a key element in the UKIP proposals for housing, which were outlined when the party launched its manifesto today (May 25th).
Pitching this idea as the big factor that can help overcome the shortage of skilled staff for conventional construction or the delays to the whole process caused by the sluggish planning system, the party said: "Factory-built homes should not be confused with the pre-fabs of the past. They are built to last, to high design standards, and are energy efficient, with running costs up to 30 per cent less than traditional homes. While conventional construction cannot in the medium term meet the need for low cost housing, factory-built modular homes can."
Not only would this build lots of homes, the party said, but a two-bedroom property would be typically available for £100,000 or less. This would mean around 100,000 new homes being built every year, with a new housing development corporation being formed to buy up land, principally brownfield.
If this were to prove the magic bullet the UK housing crisis needs, it would mean a growing proportion of the UK's housing stock would be fitted with inbuilt insulation, rather than this being added in the standard method of filling a cavity wall after all the bricks have been laid.
The party's plan is to fund the building of modular homes using £1 billion of money that would otherwise go into the European Regional Development Fund each year. Of course, critics would note that parts of the UK have been receiving that sort of funding for years, from Merseyside to the Scottish Highlands, but now that Britain is leaving the EU, how regional funding will be re-allocated will be an issue the government has to address.
Mass-produced modular housing is not the only element of UKIP's housing policy. Part, of course, lies in the party's line on establishing zero net immigration, which it argues will prevent many of the new homes being "absorbed" by migrants (a view which, of course, assumes all immigrants go straight to the front of the housing queue). Another area of policy is a proposed review of housing associations, which, the party argues, have produced a "catalogue of failures". UKIP said its investigation has shown they build fewer homes, the ones they construct tend to be at a higher cost and many of their bosses earn more than the prime minister.
Of course, this policy programme is not going to be implemented, as nobody, not even UKIP themselves, seriously believes they can win the election. Even with 13 per cent of the vote last time, they won just a single seat - Clacton - where former Tory MP Douglas Carswell enjoyed popular local support. Mr Carswell quit the party earlier this year and this sole patch of purple on the electoral map is set to turn blue again. The party's plunging opinion poll ratings also indicate they will not gain any of the handful of marginals they could target, such as Hartlepool, Heywood & Middleton or Thurrock.
However, policies such as the increasing use of pre-fab housing may be implemented to a large extent after the election. It is known that communities secretary Sajid Javid is very interested in their potential, and has visited other European countries to see how they contribute to the housing supply there. Like other small parties, UKIP may not ever occupy Downing Street, but at least some of their ideas may be manifest in the homes on other streets up and down the land.