Britain’s biggest “factory-built” council homes programme since the prefab construction boom of the Forties has been launched in east London.

Greenwich council has signed a £300 million contract for the delivery of up to 750 new modular homes to help address the chronic housing shortage in the borough.

Two sites at former garages have already been granted planning permission for the houses, which can be built in less than two weeks compared with a typical six-month construction period.

Greenwich has more than 20,000 people on the housing waiting list with an average wait time of nearly three years.

Greenwich cabinet member for housing Anthony Okereke said: “Employing modular techniques as part of our Greenwich Builds programme is allowing us to quickly deliver the high quality and sustainable council homes so badly needed in our borough.

“With plans for construction on 750 new homes to be under way by 2022, we’re excited to be at the forefront of delivering innovative zero-carbon council properties, making good on Royal Greenwich’s commitments to tackling the housing crisis and climate change.”

The houses have been designed by Clerkenwell-based architects shedkm, manufactured by Ideal Modular Homes, which has its production line in Liverpool, and will be constructed on site by Lewisham-based A&E Elkins.

The first homes are expected to be ready by the end of the year.

Ideal Modular Homes founder Luke Barnes said: “Councils are under constant pressure to deliver affordable housing at a reduced cost, while still delivering on quality. This joint venture will see that beautifully designed high-quality homes can be delivered in half the time that traditional methods would.”

Alex Flint, director at shedkm, said: “The new homes look to change the perception towards off-site manufacturing, through carefully crafted and long-lasting materials, and considered internal layouts. In addition, we will work alongside the landscape architects to ensure that we create new neighbourhoods with identity and a sense of place, providing the residents with a sense of belonging.”

Modular homebuilding in Britain has struggled to shake off the image of the postwar prefabs, many of which suffered from damp and other defects —

although some are still lived in. Of the roughly 200,000 homes built each year in Britain, only about 15,000 are modular, despite their speed of delivery.

Across London as a whole almost quarter of a million households are waiting for council housing, but Mayor Sadiq Khan has admitted he will not hit this year’s target for building new affordable homes because of the coronavirus lockdown.

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