Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL) – a wholly-owned housing company, set up in 2016 by Oxford City Council – has selected seven developers to help build more than 2,500 low carbon homes across Oxfordshire in the next 10 years.
Barratt Developments, Equans, Hill Group and Osborne have been chosen as eligible bidders for large projects worth more than £8m, with Buildeco, Feltham Construction and Impact Modular in the running to deliver smaller developments.
The appointment of development partners is part of OCHL’s £1bn sustainable housing development framework for building new homes.
OCHL aims to acquire and develop more than 2,000 new homes on sites across Oxfordshire in the next 10 years. Oxford City Council and its housing company aim to open up the sustainable development framework to other social landlords and councils, delivering more than 2,500 homes in total.
This framework embeds an eco-friendly approach to new developments and will be a key driver in OCHL’s journey to zero carbon by 2030.
Currently, OCHL will work with chosen developers to deliver three options for sustainable homes:
- a 40% carbon reduction from the 2021 building regulations, which come into effect this June, or a 70% reduction below current standards, whichever is greater
- Passivhaus equivalent standard
- zero carbon for regulated and unregulated energy, with a preference for low embodied energy
The sustainable development framework involves the use of methods like timber frame and modular construction, which means creating large components of buildings offsite in a factory. Sections are then transported to the site where they are assembled.
Every stage of production is subject to stringent quality checks, and consistent standards are maintained. These methods use less energy than traditional builds and result in less waste in landfills.
Another benefit is that prefabricated sections are easier to replace and disassemble. If a building has become obsolete or disused, it can be relocated in sections to a different site. Modular parts can be saved so that they don’t go to waste.
Without the need for building material deliveries and noisy onsite machinery, sites are also quieter, requiring fewer people to undertake construction. This means development sites are less disruptive to local communities.
Oxford needs homes
High demand and scarce availability mean that Oxford is among the least affordable places for housing in the UK. People on average outcomes are priced out of the housing market, and private rents are nearly double the average for England as a whole.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2020, Oxford’s median house price was £400,000 – 11.72 times median gross household earnings (£34,124) in the city. For England, as a whole, the median house price is 7.84 times median earnings.
Half (49.3%) of Oxford’s homes are in the private rented sector, where the ONS reports a median private rent of £1,450 a month for a three-bedroom home. The equivalent amount for England as a whole is £800.
Meanwhile, there are currently more than 2,600 households on the council’s housing waiting list.
The cost of housing pushes people into hardship, overcrowded conditions or out of Oxford altogether. Half of Oxford’s workers have to commute into a city they can’t afford to live in – leading to growing unaffordability, increased congestion and carbon emissions across Oxfordshire, as well as difficulties for employers in recruiting and retaining staff.
The cost of housing means that a third of Oxford’s children live below the poverty line and is a key factor behind poor educational outcomes.
“This is great news and a significant step forwards for our housing company. OCHL is a social impact developer committed to building the right homes for Oxfordshire, where all six of our county’s councils have declared a climate emergency. This means low carbon homes now, on the road to zero carbon by 2030.”
—Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet member for planning and housing delivery
“OCHL’s touchstones are good design, high quality and low carbon, and the developers we’ve chosen for our sustainable development framework also embody our principles. We look forward to working together to build the homes that Oxfordshire needs.”
—Helen Horne, Managing Director of OCHL