Housebuilding is slowing down – does this create an opportunity to rethink development, questions Christopher Martin, in the May edition of PRO LANDSCAPER.
Market conditions are causing us all to consider what we buy and how we spend; the same is true of developers and housebuilders. The UK’s three biggest housebuilders have all been cutting back on new projects as they adapt to the downturn in the property market, with fewer people buying new homes due to concerns about the economy and the jump in borrowing costs – which now stand above 4%, their highest since 2008 – coupled with considerable inflation and the rise in the cost of building materials. With developers hunkering down, new homes are not being built and land purchases are also being reined in, meaning the lag when things do start will be noticeable.
With developers hunkering down, new homes are not being built and land purchases are also being reined in, meaning the lag when things do start will be noticeable. Collectively, the UK’s three biggest housebuilders built almost 50,000 homes last year. So, at the core of the issue is the fact that this slowdown in construction and land acquisition will have a material impact on the UK’s housing supply, with the forecasted number of new homes being built falling by around 25% year on year in 2023. The fact of the matter is we are not getting the homes we need in the UK at this moment in time, but were we before? With this considerable pause in the housing and construction market, now is the time to (re)focus on what investment we need, rather than doing what we’ve always done. To take a fresh look at value and values, the connection between them and how we can put value to work for the values we have or strive for. In short, now is the time to build homes that cease to socialise the risk and privatise the reward.
The Housing Design Audit for England by Place Alliance UCL found that in terms of the homes we are building, housing design is overwhelmingly ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ with some of the least successful design elements nationally relating to overly engineered highways infrastructure and the poor integration of car parking. This leads to unattractive and unfriendly environments that lack a strong sense of place and community cohesion as well as streets that invite car use over everything else. In turn, this has huge and spiralling environmental, social and societal implications. If everything starts at home, should we not rethink how we shape homes to positively influence the lives that grow within them?
First of all, through all aspects of the development process, and especially in terms of the design of streets, we must take a place and people first approach. We have to better apply the learning we have gained from the redesign of urban streets to the design of streets within development at a much larger scale. At the heart of the issue is parking; we have to better communicate the damage that parking has on community, and start to create places that support movement but prioritise people.