Could an evolved ‘trailer park’ be the cure for Kent’s housing crisis?

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A new breed of houses could be set up to unblock the county’s housing crisis – those leading the push promising to spend millions of pounds on a previously badly maligned industry.

Park houses, the latest phase in the evolution of what were once mobile home sites, are growing in popularity.

There are already a number of residential parks in Kent. Photo Wyldecrest Parks

Built offsite and shipped, they cost a fraction of traditional homes and don’t require a huge amount of associated infrastructure.

But they come with an image problem. And any expansion risks getting bogged down in fear that the Kent countryside will be inundated with the modern equivalent of American-style trailer parks.

“If people think of them as poorly insulated mobile homes or on stilts, they’re absolutely right. But 20 years ago,” says Alfie Best, the self-made multimillionaire behind Europe’s largest park house company, Wyldecrest Parks.

He already has parks in Rainham, Sevenoaks and Woodchurch, near Ashford, and is looking for more.

“What we tend to find are people who think they are like holiday caravans. But park houses are now built to a UK residential standard.

Alfie Best thinks houses in the park are the key to unblocking the housing crisis
Alfie Best thinks park homes are key to unlocking housing crisis

“They’re built to the same specifications as a normal house, although it’s built of wood with a stucco cladding. It’s no different from how Americans build their homes.

“A house in a park doesn’t start life as affordable housing and doesn’t end up in the housing mainstream. It starts affordable, continues as affordable, and ends its life as affordable housing.

“It’s not just possible, it’s the answer to affordable housing.”

They do, however, have some drawbacks – obstacles that some experts currently consider insurmountable.

Banks do not offer mortgages on houses in the park, primarily the owner does not own the land they are built on and the semi-permanent nature of the building.

The interior of a modern park house.  Photo Wyldecrest Parks
The interior of a modern park house. Photo Wyldecrest Parks

There is also the fact that unlike buying a regular property that will increase in value, the reverse tends to be true for park houses.

As a result, they tend to be offered to those over 50 who cash in on their traditional property by the time they go into partial or full retirement and buy the property en bloc. Land rents are also due.

But, says Mr Best, who recently appeared on ITV’s Undercover Boss, comparable real estate price comparisons for the areas in which their parks are located are “at least” 50% cheaper than a traditional home. In addition, there is no stamp duty or land registration fee. What is not to smell.

And, he insists that the cost of living is “on average 42% lower”.

According to his company’s website, the combined costs of council tax, utility bills and land rent will set a park owner down by around £ 4,000 a year.

Homes are popular with those over 50, mainly because banks don't lend against them.  Photo Wyldecrest Parks
Homes are popular with those over 50, mainly because banks don’t lend against them. Photo Wyldecrest Parks

This, in part, is due to the council tax which considers them to be “A-band” properties – the lowest possible.

And that is, insists Mr Best, the reason why local authorities do not give more approval.

“It’s purely a financial reason,” he explains. “They would much rather allow 50 new apartments or houses than the park houses. The reason is that they receive a much higher council tax rate, plus all stamp duties and land registration fees are charged. paid. “

Ultimately, he wants them to be open to all age groups. “But until the model of banks not lending on park homes changes, it won’t change,” he added.

Cresswell Welch has made a fortune of several million pounds from his home fleets. Now the 58-year-old says he has up to £ 18million to invest in one or more sites in Kent to add to the 12 he already operates as part of his Crown Parks company .

Cresswell Welch has a £ 18million 'war chest' he wants to invest in the county
Cresswell Welch has a £ 18million ‘war chest’ he wants to invest in the county

“The houses in the park are the answer to the housing shortage,” insists Welch, whose holdings include a site in Ruckinge near Ashford.

“Sites can be smaller-scale and set up quickly without the need for new roads and major infrastructure, and homes are simply delivered and ‘plugged in’ to the site – typically at half the cost of building. a conventional property.

“This is in stark contrast to the disruption caused by large conventional developments: ever-changing temporary roads and road closures that can last for years as a major new ‘village’ is added.

“Our approach is much smoother and the properties are manufactured offsite and customized according to the buyer’s wishes.

“And if, for reasons of argument, the authorities needed a change of plan a few decades later, the properties could simply be taken away, renovated and erected elsewhere. Ikea is now offering something similar as an option for 50 manufactured homes in Bristol, but we’ve been able to do that for years.

Could we see more of these types of properties?  Photo Wyldecrest Parks
Could we see more of these types of property? Photo Wyldecrest Parks

But then the exponents of this rising force would probably say that, right?

Spencer Fortag is Managing Director of Dockside Property Services at Medway. He thinks that if there is a place for the houses in the park, they may not yet be the panacea.

He explains: “The big problem is that they are not mortgageable because they are supposed to be semi-permanent and mobile homes, and no lender is going to lend on something that might go away. So they remain open only to those over 50. years who are selling their homes.

“But like housing made up of shipping containers and, to a lesser degree of similarity, modular buildings, there is something to be said about finding other ways to provide housing.

“Park houses in their current format might not be the answer, but an evolution of a park house, something permanent, something you can get a mortgage on and something that is very affordable could function.

Spencer Fortag thinks park houses could be the answer - but in an even more evolved form
Spencer Fortag thinks park houses could be the answer – but in an even more evolved form

“I still feel that having a community built from this type of structure, in an area outside of a main city, but with good infrastructure and the means to access high employment might be the answer.

“Because then you know you’re looking at a land value that’s low, that will work for the developers, and that brings people into the work areas.

“Anything is possible, but we need some common thinking from government, developers as well as banks and mortgage companies – we could provide a very good solution to both homelessness and housing affordable.”

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