Why we say YES to healthy homes guidance!

New housing developments get new guidelines

New healthy homes design guidance for England has just been published. This is timely in light of our blog yesterday about making our town centres more attractive places to live and work. The new guidelines, Building for a Healthy Life, which are backed by the NHS, aim to encourage healthier lifestyles to be planned into new housing developments and were officially launched this week.

The new design toolkit sets out the priorities for creating healthier communities. These include improved walking, cycling and public transport links, reduced carbon emissions and better air quality. The aim is to ensure that masterplans for new developments should be based on an assessment of local health and care needs, with the creation of integrated neighbourhoods rather than ghettoes of new homes or affordable housing and well-defined public spaces.

The new healthy homes guidelines use the same 12-point structure as Building for Life 12 (the design guidance that has been in place since 2012) with examples of good practice that would give a proposed development a green light and bad practice that would earn a red light from planners. However, the thinking behind Building for a Healthy Life is that it should prompt discussion around good design and planning, rather than simply act as a tick-box scoring system.

We all know there are still too many poorly designed new build schemes around the country. They are easy to spot. They lack character, with cookie-cuttter homes, too little public amenity space and poor access to public transport. If new guidance can help improve the standard of design for new housing by creating well-defined streets and spaces, focus on placemaking and help people get active by walking and cycling more, we are all in favour. But as ever the proof will be whether, in a few years’ time, we start to see new housing that we would all be happy to live in, rather than the bleak, almost identical developments that too often spring up around our towns and cities.

Why not READ our Planet Rent Blog too: blog.planetrent.co.uk

Will we be repurposing property in the post-pandemic world?

Could we be about to see a post-pandemic trend for repurposing property in a really positive way?

Repurposing property could be a major post-pandemic trend. Since lockdown restrictions were lifted on estate and lettings agents in May, we are already seeing a growing trend for both renters and buyers to show more interest in out-of-town homes with gardens. And, with more of us likey to be working remotely for some time, properties with space for home-working are likely to become more desirable.

Offices too could be transformed as commercial tenants re-think their space requirements and rely more on technology than on face-to-face interactions, both with colleagues and clients. Research from vertical transportation consultancy, reported by the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) reveals that lasting change could be on the cards for the office sector in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mark Fairweather, managing director of D2E, thinks we could see a paradigm shift in the workplace, working practices, and commuting habits,  with almost half (44%) of workers polled by the company in a recent survey saying they will be asking their employers if they can work for at least some days of the week from home. 

The post-pandemic period may also signal the end of trying to cram more people into less space.   D2E expects the typical space allocation of 8 sq m per person to go up to something like 12 sq m per person on main floors, as more social distancing is needed at work. Lobby and reception areas are likely to expand too, and there could be a greater focus on stairwells and walking where possible, to help workers avoid crowded lifts and escalators.  With fewer people keen to use public transport, there may be more need for bike storage and shower facilities, and D2E also predicts changed canteen layouts for social distancing and increased natural ventilation, as well as a swing towards touchless technology in lifts and lobbies.

With all minds focused on the pandemic, it’s easy to forget that we are still facing a housing crisis. Property specialist Colliers International points to the possibility of repurposing hotels for residential use, creating much- needed homes as well as opening up redevelopment opportunities for the hard-hit hospitality sector.

In the beleaguered hospitality sector, rather than take the financial hit of waiting for a return to pre-pandemic operating conditions, looking at redevelopment options may be a more realistic route for some hotel owners. Colliers suggests this would require a relaxation of planning restrictions but it could provide a solution for local authorities, who could then deliver accommodation in Class C categories such as affordable housing, houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and care homes.

At Ringley, we have been calling for some time for new and better use to be made of retail developments in our hard-hit high streets. We believe institutionally-led, integrated build-to-rent and co-working space is the answer. Not only should the demise of large swathes of traditional retail drive the institutions to get creative and repurpose their space but, as we are all facing a similar collapse in the value of our pensions, all those who pay into one should demand it!

We are leading the way by launching a white label flexible office management platform called Busy Living at our new co-working space in Camden and will be blogging about this in more detail soon.

We believe that, once the pandemic passes, we may find ourselves facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to genuinely rethink the way we use property to bring genuine benefits for us all. What do you think?

Why not READ our Planet Rent Blog too: blog.planetrent.co.uk