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End of year comment- Housebuilder and Housing Association view

End of year comments from SO Resi, City & County and Dandara and Barratt David Wilson, on housing, sustainability and housebuilder perspectives.
Lesley Treacy Head of ESG at Dandara

Kevin Sims, Director of Sales & Marketing at SO Resi:

Location, location, location

“With the market proving to be unpredictable as ever this year, one thing which buyers are sure of is being strategic in the places they buy. Proximity to London and amenities help to reduce commuting times and costs whilst in turn aiding our strategy in where we provide affordable housing.

“This means that the Thames Valley region is proving to be a property hotspot this year, with a markedly denser population than its home counties counterparts. Made up of a patchwork of small and medium-sized metropolitan hubs, the Thames Valley has benefited from Government investment, fast travel links and access to London salaries. Many of its urban centres, such as the likes of Bracknell and Slough, have shaken off their less desirable reputations and are now considered strategic locations for work, travel and play. Bracknell’s multi-million regeneration has created a new town centre and essential housing, while Slough is a strategic location on the Elizabeth Line, and is home to the highest concentration of global HQs in the country.

“Places in the Home Counties and especially Thames Valley will continue to have a steady stream of buyers in 2024 for these reasons, but mainly affordability.”

On shared ownership

“Our appetite and excitement for shared ownership can only grow as the product becomes more popular and more investment is provided, and we feel this is heading in the right direction come the new year. To make the product as successful as possible, the government must continue to support shared ownership as an affordable homeownership option, and we reiterate our call for further grant funding to help to resolve the supply and demand issue that affordable housing providers face with demand outstripping supply by 10 to 1 in some areas.

“As house prices and private sector rents increase, shared ownership is the only viable, affordable home ownership option for an ever-growing number of young people to take their first steps on the ladder and recognise their dream of home ownership. Through investment in shared ownership, the government will demonstrate that they share the aspirations of millions of people across the nation to own an affordable, secure and safe place to call home.

“With a political narrative that will incorporate fierce debates on housing and all parties wanting to win over the younger generation, we hope 2024 will be the year we see a collective effort to improve lives and access to affordable housing.”

On Rent to Buy

“The rental market has been nothing short of tough this year for tenants. Research suggest that rents have risen the most for a decade in November 2023 by 10.2%. This has understandably squeezed a lot of buyers out of all locations in the UK, but especially in the capital.

“One thing we seen rising in popularity in 2024 is Rent to Buy as an accessible housing option. This last year we launched our first scheme which allows buyers to rent at a 20% discount and buy with shared ownership at the end of their two-year tenure. When the odds are stacked so highly against the next generation of first time buyers, Rent to Buy offers a chance for buyers to save a little more money and purchase their home when the time is right. With a stubborn housing market, both Housing Associations and housebuilders need to be thinking outside the box in helping buyers – and Rent to Buy does exactly that.”

Looking ahead

“As previously mentioned, the housing market is not set to suddenly turn at the stroke of midnight on January 1st and we need to be realistic on what can be achieved.

“Housing Associations and housebuilders will continue to have to be reactive and adapt to buyer’s needs. At SO Resi, we have an incredibly strong partnerships arm, whose expertise enables us to deliver even more shared ownership homes in association with a range of organisations, including local authorities, registered providers, for-profit registered providers, and housebuilders, and have a number of schemes in the pipeline for 2024 and beyond.

“For many young people, shared ownership will continue to be the only realistic option and we need to ensure it is protected with adequate long-term funding from the government. Without this, we risk losing a generation of would-be homeowners.”

Simon Vernon-Harcourt, Design & Planning Director at City & Country:

“Sustainability will continue to move up the agenda in the property sector. The industry takes it increasingly seriously, but change is also being driven by house-buyers as they seek more energy-efficient homes.

“That said, this Government or the next one needs to focus on improving our existing housing stock. The UK has among the oldest domestic housing in Europe (around 24 million built before 2011), but these homes are not energy efficient. There is always going to be a trade-off between new build and existing stock but given the amount of energy and work that went into the initial building, it is only right we preserve that.

“Period properties can be sensitively retrofitted to make them more energy efficient whilst retaining their period charm and character. Refitting and converting existing buildings also saves vast amounts of embodied carbon, but our tax system still favours new builds over recycling and upgrading existing stock.

“With the property sector contributing around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we need strong incentives to encourage better use of existing buildings. Whoever comes into power after the General Election is staring at an open goal in terms of a policy that would greatly help our sustainability commitments.

“Not only do we need to continue to improve our sustainability credentials, but we must also ensure that social impact remains a priority for the property industry. Everywhere we build and retrofit must also create a sense of place that is welcoming, and ultimately people want to live in for generations to come.”

Lesley Treacy, Head of ESG at Dandara:

“As we move into 2024, ESG will undoubtedly be at the heart of decision making and we expect to see a significant shift and focus on comprehensive sustainability reporting. Carbon will continue to remain a priority in the housing sector and as an industry we welcome the UK Net Zero Building Standard to provide tangible metrics for net zero carbon performance to be evaluated.

Progress in our building design and the use of modern materials will play a crucial role in decarbonising our industry as we move towards the UK’s net zero targets.

Several policy and legislative changes expected next year will help to further regulate the industry and provide a formalised framework. This includes Biodiversity Net Gain, Future Homes Standard, and the UK Sustainability Disclosure Standards, which will set out corporate disclosures on the sustainability-related risks and opportunities of businesses, to help companies report on their sustainability performance and adopt new practices.

We also cannot forget about the vital role the ‘S’ plays in ESG and the importance of social value creation at a local level to support our communities and create positive change that has real meaningful impact far beyond reporting and metrics.”

Marc Woolfe, Director of Sales & Marketing at Barratt David Wilson Homes North Thames:

“As a housebuilder who is committed to leading the industry on sustainability and looking after nature we made a commitment to deliver a 10% uplift in biodiversity net gain across all our new sites, a full year ahead of the legislation. We also have key relationships with partners such as RSPB so that we always try to give nature a home on our developments. For instance, at our flagship RSPB Kingsbrook development in Aylesbury 50% of the development incorporates green infrastructure and follows the ‘growing with nature’ guide.

“With more new sustainability and biodiversity legislation coming next year it is important for the housebuilding industry to preserve and enhance the natural world, to build low-carbon and energy-efficient homes, and to create communities where people and nature can thrive.”

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