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”

Modular Flats 1Stephen 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.

After 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.

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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.”

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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 solution.

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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. Modular FlatsAnother 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 goal posts. 

“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 example.