Developers have to make new builds attractive. Here’s why…
Jerald Solis (pictured), director, Experience Invest
With housing demand continuing to outpace the available residential stock, it’s fair to say that Britain’s housing crisis is becoming more serious every year. In response, developers and public sector bodies are hastily commissioning new build housing projects all over the country in a bid to ensure more people can realise their homebuying ambitions.
While this is undoubtedly a needed step, new builds have become a contentious topic. Some new build developments have been criticised for being soulless and not reflective of the communities in which they are based.
Consequently, the 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’. Perhaps most revealing, the report finds that many developers prioritise their bottom line and overlook the importance of delivering a project that is not only visually appealing but also reflects the interests of the wider local community.
This has fuelled a general hostility towards new builds. 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 10 years.
There are a number of reasons for this, but chief among people’s concerns about new builds are worries that the house would be poorly finished or otherwise rushed. 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 faults with utilities.
The problem is particularly acute because people’s negative perceptions of new build housing have led to a general opposition to new development projects. While understandable, this antipathy only compounds the housing crisis further because it makes it harder to get community approval for significant new developments. In effect, developers need to recognise the extent to which cutting corners has legitimised the phenomenon. Indeed, the growing hostility towards new builds is the main reason I was so delighted to see an influential government commission lobbying for more, and better, development.
In my experience, simply insisting that these minimum standards are upheld goes a long way towards producing housing of which a community can be proud. Ultimately, it’s a question of expectations; too many in the industry assume that beauty is exclusively a property of old buildings and that by putting up new ones, you are doing your bit to increase supply.
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. This is a vital step that cannot be overlooked by developers and is integral to any planning process. It also overcomes one of the main criticisms people have of 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.
While Britain is in desperate need for new residential housing developments, it’s extremely important that developers aim to build properties of the highest standard. By convening the BBBB Commission, the government has shown that it is serious about ensuring that developers up their game when it comes to meeting Britain’s housing needs. Ultimately, by building more, developers could drive UK growth as well as go a long way to solve the housing crisis, but it is only by genuinely emphasising the building of better, and more attractive housing that developers can truly support our collective quality of life.