Matthew Neville

Exploring the importance of affordable housing in a post-pandemic market with Esh Construction

As part of Bdaily’s latest feature week, The Property Market, we spoke with Esh Construction which operates across the North of England providing civil engineering, affordable housing, refurbishment, private housing and commercial build services to the private and public sector.

During this chat, we discussed the significance of affordable housing in the context of a post-pandemic property market, in addition to what Esh is doing differently in order to deliver meaningful change in its communities of operation. Read on to find out more.

1. How is Esh delivering social and economic value to the areas in which it operates?

Esh holds a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity & Social Mobility. This was awarded due to the group’s “commitment to delivering social value in the areas where it operates”.

Esh’s pre-construction director, Chris Hale, noted: “Giving back to the local community is at the core of our values.”

Esh makes scheme specific social and economic value commitments as part of the procurement process to ensure it is delivering “maximum value” for its clients and their communities. Its initiatives include:

  • Encouraging young people and new entrants into the industry via work experience, T-Level placements and apprenticeships.
  • School engagement via careers sessions, site safety talks and our award-winning primary school programme ‘Get into STEM.’
  • Procuring local subcontractors and suppliers to work on Esh projects, ensuring money generated is reinvested back into the local area.
  • Sourcing local charities and community groups near to our schemes which will benefit from funding or volunteering opportunities. Examples of this range from defibrillator donations to revamping a building for a food bank.

2. How would you say Esh has managed to distinguish itself from its peers within the affordable housing sector?

Over recent years, Esh has built up a Land Led Development offering within its business which is now “well established” within the affordable housing sector.

Led by land and partnerships director, Laura Devaney, the contractor works with land agents, landowners, Homes England, local authorities and registered providers of social housing to bring forward land for affordable housing development.

Chris continued: “We see through the process right from identifying land to construction. Land led development plays an important role in achieving the ambitious targets for new build affordable homes.

“With collaboration and transparency at the forefront, this route to market is competing against the process of traditional tendering in the affordable housing sector.”

Esh’s Land Led Pipeline is circa £150m with four schemes currently in for planning, ranging from Northumberland, to Sunderland, to Doncaster, and many more progressing towards planning in the next six months.

Esh is one of a small number of contractors in the UK who can apply for grants under the current Homes England Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26 and can support RPs with grant applications and funding where required.

3. How has the construction landscape shifted, if at all, since the de-escalation of the global pandemic?

While the pandemic created a lot of uncertainty, the importance of new build affordable housing remained clear. The Government is committed to delivering the housing required via the Homes England Affordable Homes Programme 2021-2026.

Demand for these homes and affordable housing developments remains high as RPs continue to meet their strategic partner commitments under the Homes England funding programme.

Whether this is linked to the de-escalation of the pandemic or not, the construction industry is currently experiencing soaring costs of material inflation as well as resource constraints and a significant shortage of labour due to the widely publicised skills gap. Nonetheless, the demand to build and willingness to build remains high.

4. Is Esh looking to participate in the current popularity of affordable housing schemes?

Affordable housing schemes equate to in excess of £100m of turnover per annum for Esh Construction across the North East and Yorkshire regions, and this is said to be an “essential part of Esh’s business plan”.

“We have built up our expertise in Land Led Developments to not only strengthen this pipeline, but to support our clients who have high growth plans. As a Homes England Investment Partner, we can support our clients with their funding applications, something which can be particularly valuable to smaller providers with limited resources.”

5. Have you any upcoming initiatives or projects you wish to spotlight for our readers?

Chris highlighted two projects which are currently in planning, those being Moorway in Washington and Hospital of King James in Gateshead. Moorway is a land led development which, if planning is successful, will bring 97 new extra care homes to the area.

The designs include an apartment building containing 84 one and two-bedroom apartments and a selection of two-bedroom bungalows, all of which will benefit communal living facilities and on-site care and support.

Elsewhere, an application has been submitted to Gateshead Council’s planning department for a new Almshouse development. Plans for the new self-contained community include an apartment building with communal facilities and bungalows.

Chris concluded: “Both of these developments are being brought forward to meet the needs of an ageing population.

“It is widely documented that our ageing society is providing a shortage of later life living options, therefore extra care schemes like these allow people to live in their own home and maintain their independence, while accessing on-site care should they need it.”

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