A recent report issued by one of Britain’s biggest mortgage lenders, Santander, found that 70% of young people now believe the dream of home ownership is over for their generation. While this figure is particularly stark, it’s merely the latest in a series of findings that reflect the current state of Britain’s housing market.
In an effort to mitigate against the crisis, developers and public sector bodies are hastily commissioning new-build housing projects all over the country in a bid to ensure more people can get on the property ladder. Without a doubt, building more homes is a vital constituent of any solution but the need for more housing often conflicts with people’s unwillingness to personally live in new builds.
Of course, much of the reluctance stems from practical issues like a lack of transport links serving new developments, but it’s true that some new builds can fail to meet society’s expectations concerning quality and aesthetics. Consequently, the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful (BBBB) Commission has issued a call to developers to ensure their new housing developments meet the needs and expectations of communities.
This plea forms the centrepiece of the BBBB Commission’s latest interim report titled ‘Creating space for beauty’. The report revealingly states that many developers prioritise their bottom line over ensuring that they deliver a visually appealing project that adds to the local community. In essence, the apathy of many developers towards future tenants has fuelled a general hostility towards new-builds. Indeed, the housebuilding industry’s own Home Builders Federation survey found that only 25% of house buyers would consider buying a property which had been built in the last ten years.
People are wary of new builds for a number of reasons but the primary fear is that they are more likely than older properties to be poorly finished. According to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, 51% of homeowners of recent new builds in England said they had experienced major problems including issues with construction, unfinished fittings and faulty electricals.
In essence, poorly finished new-build housing can create a negative perception towards new-builds. While understandable, this antipathy only compounds the housing crisis further because it makes it harder to get community approval for significant new developments. What’s more, developers like Experience Invest are taking great efforts in supporting modern, state-of-the-art properties that reflect the needs of the communities in which they are based.
This is why I was so delighted to see an influential government commission lobbying for more, and better, development. By simply insisting that minimum standards are upheld, the BBBB commission could go a long way to changing people’s perceptions of new build housing.
At Experience Invest, we work closely with local community groups and public sector organisations to determine how our new-build developments can best reflect their needs.
By adopting this collaborative ethos, developers can overcome many of people’s oft-stated objections to new builds – namely, that they are soulless and unattractive. Our projects in Luton, Liverpool and Newcastle show just how new-builds can be constructed that are modern and reflective of the local communities in which they are based.
With Britain’s housing crisis deepening, it’s essential that we continue to build bridges between the public and private sectors. And while Britain needs new residential housing developments, the quality of new build housing cannot be relegated to an afterthought. Consequently, the government’s decision to convene the BBBB Commission is a crucial first step to ensuring that developers don’t neglect their responsibility to meet Britain’s housing needs. Yes, Britain needs more housing, but it also needs better housing. I believe that it is only by recognising the latter that developers can effectively build properties that reflect the needs of the UK community.
Jerald Solis is the Business Development and Acquisitions Director at Experience Invest, a company that provides property investors in the UK and overseas access to exclusive investments across a variety of asset classes. He is also a Director at Opto Property Group; a construction firm committed to creating developments that have a long-term, positive impact.