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Design Competition Demonstrates Future for Affordable Housing

Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly will today call on local authorities and house builders to use the £60,000 house to increase affordable housing in communities across the country.

This week's Design for Manufacture exhibition showcases the nine winning designs in the government's contest to design a good-quality home for a construction cost of £60,000. The competition has demonstrated that it is possible to be cost efficient and improve design standards at the same time.

On the 10 demonstration sites, competition winners will build at least 300 homes for sale on a shared equity basis for first time buyers unable to compete in the market. These will include properties where people will be able to buy their first equity share of a two-bedroom home for between £55-70,000. The homes are being built on former public sector land as part of mixed, sustainable communities where at least half of the homes will be affordable. Of the 1,000 homes provided, a further 200-300 homes will be social housing for rent with the balance being housing for full sale by developers on the open market.

By using public sector land and lower construction costs, English Partnerships has been able to deliver higher than average levels of affordable homes within mixed communities on these sites. The government now wants to see the same approach rolled out on surplus public sector land across the country to increase affordable housing. Ms Kelly is calling on local authorities to use their own surplus land to deliver more shared equity schemes for local families. The government will be producing guidance for local authorities who want to adopt English Partnerships' approach.

The ground-breaking competition jointly run by the Department for Communities and Local Government and English Partnerships - the national regeneration agency - has resulted in practical lessons for the house-building industry, including how to reduce construction costs while retaining high standards of quality as well as how to build houses at a high density. The competition also suggests further opportunities to cut costs and improve design for social housing, making it possible to build more homes.

Welcoming the start of the exhibition, Ruth Kelly said:

"The Design for Manufacture competition shows that it's possible to build homes more cost-efficiently without sacrificing quality. The winning projects have really pushed back the boundaries, producing innovative designs that maximise space and minimise environmental impact.

"The challenge now is to build on this and bring the lessons learnt from the competition in to the heart of house building. We need more decent affordable homes and there is no reason why they should not also be of high quality design.

"We are committed to helping make this happen and will be working with local authorities, developers and other partners to realise this goal."

Trevor Beattie, the English Partnerships Director with responsibility for the competition, said:

"The Design for Manufacture competition has resulted in a host of innovative new home designs and construction techniques that can be used to build homes more economically without sacrificing quality. These benefits will be passed on to purchasers in the form of homes that are better built, cheaper to run and above all, cheaper to buy.

"Throughout the challenge we have seen many groundbreaking ideas that are a credit to our industry. We have all learned a lot from this competition and English Partnerships will now work to ensure that these lessons are taken up by the market as a whole."

Initial findings from the competition include:

Construction costs can be tamed without sacrificing quality - developers that closely linked their design, suppliers and delivery teams into a single process achieved savings. Higher-density housing can be achieved with houses, not just flats - developments built as a result of this competition will achieve densities of over 60 homes per hectare, mainly with houses.

Reducing construction costs does not mean reducing size - the competition required all homes constructed for £60,000 to be a minimum of 76.5 sq m (823.46 sq ft). In fact, some of the homes will be built larger than this, some at around 88 sq m.

Good design can slash energy bills and tackle climate change - some of the winning designs are groundbreaking in terms of energy efficiency and have features which will help keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer.

A total of six developers have been chosen to build their designs across nine competition sites. Construction work is beginning on four of the sites.

Developments at Oxley Park in Milton Keynes, Upton in Northampton, Allerton Bywater near Leeds and Renny Lodge, Newport Pagnell all received planning permission within 10-13 weeks of an application being submitted.

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