Low construction costs more important than how houses are built, says English Partnerships director

English Partnerships will invite bids for homes using anything from bricks and mortar to high-tech methods of construction in its £60,000 house competition.

EP’s Design for Manufacture contest is due to be launched by deputy prime minister John Prescott next month in the run-up to the expected general election in May.

Trevor Beattie, EP director of corporate strategy, said the quango was more interested in whether the homes could be built for £60,000 rather than how they were built.

Beattie said EP was interested in a range of experimental low-cost developments. He added that the competition sites would “typically” be on the edges of urban areas where infrastructure was in place.

EP is finalising the selection of the five to eight sites that will be used to pilot the construction of about 1000 homes, 300 of which will be built for £60,000 or less.

The bulk of the competition sites will be in the South-east

Beattie said that although the bulk of the competition sites would be in the South-east, some would be in housing hotspots in other parts of the country. Many of the pilot sites are likely to be part of larger schemes, all will have to comply with design codes.

Beattie said the provision of services, such as drains and roads, would be a matter of negotiation between EP and the developer. But he said first-time buyers obtaining these homes would typically pay just for the construction cost and would not be saddled with the cost of buying the land.

Joe Martin, executive director of Building Costs Information Service, said the government had allayed many of the industry’s fears that the £60,000 home was unrealistic. “It’s working out a lot better than it started off,” he said.