The Social Housing Revolution

There has been a significant period of change and innovation in the social housing sector. This is driven by a number of key factors: a critical need to do more, ambitious plans to create better homes, and new freedoms and opportunities. All of this means social housing providers are getting increasingly creative and using the powers at their disposal to build more, better quality properties. We are in the midst of a social housing revolution. In this blog, we will delve into the story behind the social housing revolution, how crucial collaboration with the supply chain is, and the important benefits Wavin’s products and consultancy can offer for these projects.

The growth of the social housing sector

Almost half of the local authorities in the UK have now set up their own housing companies and there are now 4.1 million social homes across the UK – a number that is only set to increase.

So, what exactly has been driving this growth? There are number of key factors to consider. More than one million households have been on social housing lists for at least a decade. This highlights the real pressure on housing associations to do more to ensure that a greater number of social homes are being developed to meet with the demand. In fact, the National Housing Federation states that England will require approximately 145,000 new social homes every year (Let’s end the housing crisis PDF). The government’s recent investment of £12 billion in affordable housing, including some social housing, will go some way to achieving this.

Additionally, the removal of borrowing caps in October 2018 has provided councils with more freedoms to deliver houses directly. With councils finally allowed to build houses themselves, many are already developing innovative new ways to get things moving. For example, Barker and Dagenham Borough Council has set up its own Developer, Be First, which aims to build 50,000 new homes in the borough over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, Croydon Council’s Brick by Brick plans to deliver 500 homes a year.

Social housing has grown into an exciting, creative sector that is filled with dedicated individuals and organisations that are constantly experimenting and implementing new ideas to deliver better results for their communities across the UK. But, if the sector is to succeed in housing the hundreds of thousands of people on the waiting list, collaboration will be key.

Challenges facing the social housing sector

The homelessness crisis in the UK adds increasing pressure to local authorities and social housing developers. Homeless charity Shelter says there are more than 274,000 homeless people in England alone and that number is set to rise. With such alarming numbers, this shows there is a housing crisis in the UK and the emphasis is on the government to help the social sector cope with this. Government investment is a start but more work needs to be done.

Sustainability is a major consideration that is forced onto the whole of society, not just the social housing sector. With alarming predictions made on what life could look like due to increasing climate change, there is a need for social housing companies to obtain a shift in focus to sustainability. This is covered more in our blog looking at sustainability in the social housing sector, you can read more here.

Covid-19 has also had a major impact on the social housing sector. With delays to developments because of lockdowns and more families living with worse health conditions and in impoverished conditions, reports released in the pandemic have sparked conversations about social housing reform. This report and the true impact of Covid on the social housing sector are highlighted in our specialist blog covering this topic, you can read more here.


Collaboration across the supply chain

Strong relationships throughout the supply chain will be central to delivering more, better quality homes across the UK. A multitude of advantages have been attached to building processes that emphasise partnerships between clients, contractors, suppliers and manufacturers. Essentially, building on these strategic partnerships will help to increase efficiency across the entire supply chain and in doing so social housing developers will be able to deliver better quality large-scale social housing developments.

One important area within the supply chain is plumbing and drainage. Wavin, the UK’s leading plastic pipe manufacturer, is well positioned to help the social housing sector continue to evolve and deliver on its objectives – not least because we’re able to offer one solution covering all bases, including both plumbing and drainage. At Wavin, we have strong experience of working across a number of social housing projects, which means we can add value throughout the project and for the whole life of the build, offering technical assistance to key partners along the way.

The Wavin offering

When it comes to plumbing, Wavin offers a range of plumbing systems that have been designed to speed up installation – a key consideration when developing social housing. One example is Wavin’s Tigris K1 press-fit system. The simplicity of press fitting greatly reduces the risk of installer error as well as leaving less mess and reducing the need for system flushing. It’s also a cost-effective option, which makes it an attractive product for social housing developers and with a life expectancy in excess of 50 years, it offers reliability and greatly lowers the need for repair work. The same is true for Hep2O, our push-fit plumbing system, which is quick and easy to install, and offers cost savings of up to 30% compared to copper systems. Additionally, Hep2O’s unique design means that it cannot be tampered with which reduces theft risk. The system can only be demounted by installers using our HepKey™ tools.

In a bid to build better quality social homes, it’s important that products are selected that will help improve the quality of living and contribute to comfortable spaces for occupants. Noise from plumbing systems can be an issue, particularly in multi-occupancy building projects. However, there is a solution to fix this. Our Wavin AS Acoustic soil system works by absorbing both airborne and structural sound. Its noise insulating characteristics are due to its mineral filled polypropylene composition, which has a specialised molecular structure enabling the absorption of a number of different sound sources.

While social landlords are not currently covered by the BIM mandate, which supports the drive towards a digitally built Britain, BIM offers the social housing sector many benefits, such as improved efficiency, decreased waste and a reduced risk of error. This will be important in delivering a large volume of homes both quickly and effectively. At Wavin, we offer BIM packages that include downloadable Revit families, which make it easier and quicker to plan, specify and design using plumbing and above ground systems.

Driving forward the social housing revolution

If we’re to keep up the momentum of the social housing revolution, social housing developers – including those set up by local authorities – must take a look at their supply chain and work to ensure there is strong collaboration, from contractors through to manufacturers. Wavin is fully committed and equipped to support the social housing revolution to help deliver the large volume of homes that are needed.

To learn more about Wavin’s innovative solutions for the social housing sector, visit: