While the world is on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it presents the perfect opportunity for us all to sit back and take stock of the housing industry in the UK. At the time of writing, construction is slowly beginning again across the country following a 7 week ‘lockdown’ period which saw all, but non-essential businesses forced to close in order to halt the spread of the virus. This included work on all housing developments and could be the catalyst for record breaking lows in industry statistics for this quarter.
The lockdown threw into sharp relief the reality that housing in the UK is simply not fit for purpose any longer, and the need has arisen for a new generation of homes across the country that meet residents’ needs, evoke a sense of community, and that people will be proud to live in.
As we mentioned in our recent article “what lockdown is teaching us about housing in the UK” we spoke at length about how it has never been more important to ensure that housing is fit for purpose for everyone. While some are spending lockdown in houses with gardens, back yards or access to other outside spaces, others are stuck inside with no opportunity to get out in nature. For some, their surroundings are large enough for them and their families to spend a sustained period of time inside, however for others space is an issue and amenities such as bathrooms are not suited to sustain a family spending 24 hours a day inside together.
Upon looking at these factors, it is undeniable that housing across the country needs to level up. Gone are the days of identikit homes in suburban areas – instead we should be making good quality homes that truly cater to the needs of both individuals and families in all stages of, and from all, walks of life.
The first, and ultimately biggest, issue to address is the need for truly affordable housing in the UK. Despite the Government’s Help to Buy schemes and ISAs, home ownership is still a pipe dream for many living in the UK, and until housing becomes truly affordable, people are being forced to rely on private and social rentals to keep a roof over their heads - which in turn places further pressure on, and raises prices in, both of those sectors. In order to help make homes more affordable, there simply needs to be more of them available and in order to speed up the supply, as a country we need to be focusing on more modern methods of construction that afford us shorter assembly times and quicker completions.
While home design has ultimately come a long way over the years, it’s still far from perfect. It is time for architects and designers to really consider the needs of the residents when drawing up plans for new developments – with lockdown bringing to light the requirements for ample space and amenities in all homes, we should be using this time to think about how those can be implemented in new builds to ensure all residents are living somewhere fit for purpose.
Another factor that needs to be considered during the design process is the environmental implications and sustainability of each development. Are they being built using renewable, sustainable resources? Are they designed with bringing maintenance costs down in mind, or are they still using outdated fixtures and appliances that ultimately end up costing the resident more in bills and maintenance? In 2020 we must ensure that we are prioritising developments with a low carbon footprint, that we use materials that are ethically and sustainably sourced, and that we continue to put the needs of residents first.
Finally, we must consider the use of green space within modern developments. Whether that is ensuring homes have their own private gardens and yard areas, or a communal space where residents of all ages can benefit from being outdoors, one thing lockdown has taught us is the importance regular exposure to nature has on our collective mental health – including this within plans for developments will certainly go a long way towards creating spaces that people will truly be proud to call home.
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