Trafford-based social housing procurement consortium Procure Plus has launched Osco Homes, a wholly owned subsidiary which will deliver affordable houses constructed offsite at a factory based in HM Prison Hindley, Wigan.
The initial target is for Osco Homes, which stands for offsite construction, to build two homes a week, and within three years reach output of 1,000 homes a year.
Osco Homes has recruited eight prisoners to start, due to increase with production to around 24. All the prisoners are in the final year of their sentence at Hindley and will be trained to build external walls, floor and ceiling cassettes. All prisoners selected to work in the factory will have undertaken construction training in plastering, joinery, kitchen bathroom fitting, provided by NOVUS, formerly the Manchester College. The factory and prisoners will be supervised, with further training in assembly production skills, installation of windows, doors and final finishing by prison service instructional staff. Each prisoner will be paid a salary for their work by Osco – over and above what they would usually receive from the prison – that will be held in trust until after their release. The first contract between Osco Homes and Hindley will deliver eight factory-built bungalows for a Together Housing Group site in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.
Mike Brogan, chief executive of Procure Plus, explained: “The UK is in the midst of a housing crisis, not only in terms of the volume of homes required, but also in having enough genuinely affordable homes to meet demand. Osco Homes uses the latest innovations in off-site construction to streamline the build process – meaning faster homes – but ensures they’re also sold at a price directly related to the build cost meaning they are much more affordable.
“As well as providing a way to help tackle the housing crisis, Osco Homes was also set up to ensure that when new houses are built, there’s a more tangible benefit to the wider community and economy. One of the ways we’ll do this is through partnering with local prisons like Hindley, and providing education to prisoners.
“One of the hardest things for former prisoners to do on release is find work. By training them with key construction and manufacturing skills, we’re helping prisoners to take an important step in the rehabilitation process. Through the programme, offenders will have a better chance of reintegrating with society and the opportunity to enter a career in a growing sector. By having a guaranteed, secure, sustainable job it significantly reduces their chances of reoffending.”
Kevin Ruth, deputy chief executive, Together Housing Group, added: “When we were approached with the prospect of developing homes built in-part by offenders, we saw the potential to do two things: provide high quality homes that our area desperately needs, but also give current prisoners a better chance to gaining new skills and a life following their sentence and release. For us, it was a no-brainer to make a positive difference to our community.”
Procure Plus is a North West social housing regeneration consortium that generates efficiencies by leveraging the procurement of construction materials and contractors. As well as delivering effective, value for money schemes and ways of working for its clients, Procure Plus works with housing providers to reinvest a proportion of the savings made by the consortium back into the community, helping to create local jobs and encourage regeneration.
Procure Plus is part of Re:allies, a club of housing associations which represents over 900,000 homes across the Midlands and the North of England.