Property debate: The ideal homes mix

Britain needs to build more homes. Lancashire is seeing housebuilding grow at rapid rates in areas around the county. We brought our panel of experts to the offices of AG in Preston to ask them what challenges that brings.

Are we building the right homes in the right places?

Stuart Carter: We’re getting there. There is a focus on the housing strategy and addressing what is needed. The vision to get housing aligned with what is required is coming about.

Stuart Sage: We’re not building enough homes and most people would agree with that. It’s all about the planning system.

When it comes to new residential development, we’re seeing the same types of houses, all of a certain size and all looking fairly similar. People are basically building the same product. There are issues around design, the size of the homes being built and around the tenure.

The critical thing is what you do about that and I don’t view the planning system as being the most effective way of dealing with it and, of course, the market has to function.

The family private rented sector is an area where there’s a lot of demand and if housing developers did more of that then we might be able to increase the supply of homes.

PRESENT:

  • Richard Slater, Lancashire Business View (chair)
  • Stuart Carter, AG
  • Marcus Fisher, Civic Projects
  • Caroline Baker, Cushman & Wakefield
  • David Cox, David Cox Architects
  • Owen McKenna, Harrison Drury
  • Stuart Sage, Hive
  • Chris Blackburn, Preston City Council
  • Paul Westhead, Trafford Housing Trust
  • Philip Helm, Tyson
  • Francine Baker, UCLan

Philip Helm: We do a lot of work with housing associations but we do our own spec housing projects and there we look to try and buck the trend a bit and produce something that will still be attractive and viable but is trying to be a bit different.

Chris Blackburn: From a contractor development perspective it’s about viability. We’ve looked at a number of projects in the city centre both for ourselves and also for developer clients and we’ve struggled to structure projects that are viable for all sides.

Marcus Fisher: One thing that I’m particularly keen to understand is what are the right homes and the right places and who says what the right homes are in the right places? Where does the housing need come from?

Chris Blackburn: Traditionally it’s the local authorities, they produce the housing needs survey and the documents that evidence those needs. There’s a little bit of scepticism in the industry that it is exactly what people want and it certainly doesn’t reflect what most of the housebuilders are happy to build. Demand and need are two different things. It is about trying to square the two things.

Caroline Baker: Probably the biggest issue is around viability. Ultimately you can allocate all the sites you want, but if they’re not in areas where the values stack up and you can make them viable, the housebuilders or developers won’t be able to deliver that.

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