Housing for the Information Age

Housing for the

Information Age

Empowering consumers to drive change in the industry

A Housing Forum Working Group report

This is a report of work by the Housing Forum on the application of information-age digital technologies with the potential to improve the quality and value of housing by harnessing consumer pull. We propose a system of Home Performance Labelling to kick-start the process.

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Mark Clare

The housing debate reminds me of a game of children's football: everyone is chasing the ball without knowing how the game can be won. On the touchline the 'experts' are concerning themselves with what they think the strategy should be and why what's happening on the pitch won't work.

That's why I welcome this report because it focuses on the longer term issues we face and how we should be tackling them.

It's very clear to me that today's housing crisis is going to get worse before it gets better, but if we just focus on building more, we are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past.

So in addition to addressing the issues of the long term supply of land and streamlining the planning system, we also have to address the quality of what the industry builds.

Over the next 10 years new homes have to change radically to meet the increasing environmental challenge and we cannot rely on regulation alone to drive this agenda.

I believe better design, improved construction and a much better overall customer experience will all be delivered by the greater use of technology, alongside much better communication of the benefits of what is being sold. We are already starting to see this in the way homes are sold, with a very high percentage of consumers starting their journey 'on line'.

As a result buyers are starting to see the benefits of new homes that use less energy, that are built better and come with amenities like fast broadband from day one. Once consumers really engage, I believe it will drive far more change in our industry as we step-up and respond to their requirements.

However quickly the industry increases supply and improves what we build there is another uncomfortable fact. Looking forward to Britain in 2050 over seventy per cent of the homes that will be lived in, have already been built.

We will have to invest billions to deal with this challenge and we will need policy responses that go well beyond just the Green Deal. Providing consumers with accurate and understandable information, so they are better informed about the real cost of ownership is critical to getting them to engage in driving this agenda.

The challenges ahead of us are considerable, but to deliver the housing infrastructure Britain needs in the future will require a massive effort from everyone engaged in the industry. Technology is going to be one of the critical enablers that gets us there but we must ensure we take the consumer with us.