PSD takes a look at Stephen Haigh, CEO at Live Verde, and his
flourishing career, and talks to him about the solutions to the housing crisis.
Not a day goes by
without the housing crisis making the press, and rightly so. Surely we live in
an age where everyone is entitled to a place they can call home. Although we
have a long way to go with tackling the issue, it seems that solutions are
brewing. We recently met with Stephen Haigh, CEO of Live Verde, to learn more
about his answer to the crisis. Live Verde is the innovative housing joint
venture announced by Your Housing Group in December last year.
“Surely we live in an age where everyone is entitled to
a place they can call home”
Stephen started his career as
Managing Director of private developers such as Allen Homes, Antler Homes and
Gleeson Homes, and then went on to focus on Real Estate in the Czech Republic,
before taking up the role as Executive Director at Your Housing Group (YHG)
which led to his current significant position at Live Verde.
spending the majority of his career in the private sector he transitioned into
Affordable Housing. For many years, professionals have held the opinion that
careers in private and affordable development should remain in separate boxes.
We agree that there are certainly differences, however the lines have started
to blur, meaning that individual skills and experiences are transferable. This
is because housing associations are becoming more commercially focused by
developing for open market sale and PRS purposes.
Your Housing Group provided Stephen with
the opportunity to explore the affordable sector and the commercial potential
that it has. He believes the sector “needs consolidation”, that smaller
organisations are at risk of becoming stagnant, and that housing associations
need to become market resilient and make better use of their resources. That
being said Stephen identified the progression that Your Housing Group and its
peers have made, not being one to put his feet up, he recognised mass
development opportunity and decided to lead the way.
Heading up YHG's
specialist housing division, Stephen concentrated on providing high quality
retirement living accommodation as well as the development and growth of their
private rent portfolio. This focus has since progressed to him to addressing
the organisation's aim to create mixed tenure communities on a large scale.
“The intention is to allow Live Verde to eventually
build up to 24,000 homes per annum - a strategy which has since been
successfully showcased to the world at the Habitat III United Nations
Conference held in Ecuador.”
Taking inspiration from Europe and its
production of modular homes, Stephen saw the possibilities and solutions this
method could bring to the UK. Although it is not unknown to our developers it
has yet to be presented in such mass proportion. To transform the idea into
reality Stephen invested time into working with a revolutionary Spanish modular
designer to create a low carbon and energy efficient strategy. The intention is
for Live Verde to eventually build up to 24,000 homes per annum - a strategy
which has since been successfully showcased to the world at the Habitat III
United Nations Conference held in Ecuador.
Moving forward with the
concept, YHG announced their historic joint venture with WElink Group, which
involves £2.5 billion to be invested into the modular building
Of the joint venture Stephen states:
"We are leading the transformation of the housing market and are
able to address the UK's housing needs head on.”This is something
he does not claim to be able to achieve single-handily, recognising that the
venture will work with the contribution of the government, local authorities,
private land owners and other housing associations to help solve their
development issues and needs too.
The aim is to have six nationwide
modular manufacturing factories functioning by 2020, which will provide
thousands of homes to each region, the first coming to the North West in the
near future. On discussing the build method, Stephen was keen to eradicate
preconceptions of modular manufacturing, not to mention the use of the term
'prefab'! There are many advantages, one (and arguably the most crucial) being
the high-speed and low-cost rate at which developments can be built. Another is the offsite construction which
creates an environment where quality control is heavily monitored and also
limits disruption to neighbouring communities. Factory production also allows
for eco-friendly features to be incorporated simply into design, aiding to the
resolution of fuel poverty concerns, another subject that Stephen has a genuine
passion for. The list of benefits is long and with the infrastructure in place
to make the model a success it is no surprise that it has gained the nod of
approval from the Housing Minister.
What is most remarkable about this
major development venture, is that it holds the values of a housing
association. Stephen spoke of his aim to offer the opportunity to “set locals
up for life” - to provide apprenticeships, employment and home-owning
possibilities. This is often a consideration that is overshadowed by corporate
“Stephen spoke of his aim to offer the
opportunity to “set locals up for life” - to provide apprenticeships,
employment and home-owning possibilities.
It is fair to say that Live Verde will have a healthy impact on our
housing crisis. Development of homes will soon multiply, whilst quality of life
will improve and hats off to Stephen and YHG for leading by