With COVID-19 bringing into stark focus the need for good, decent homes, Jack Burnham, Development director at Thrive Homes, explains why the sector needs to reassess its priorities
The COVID-19 lockdown has impacted our lives in unprecedented ways. While we spent seemingly endless days inside, it gave us the chance to reflect and raised interesting questions about the homes we build and live in, in a very different way. This virus has taught us that a good, quality home is truly important.
Research commission by the National Housing Federation last year found that more than eight million people in England are living in unsuitable housing, revealing that the scale of the housing crisis is far worse than originally thought.
Being locked down in your home, seven days a week is a challenge for anyone, but it is harder still if you are living in sub-par, inadequate housing.
Over the past few months, we have heard first-hand from customers that access to a garden and adequate outdoor space has been essential for their families during lockdown. While so many of us take our outside spaces for granted, for some this access to the outdoors is an inaccessible luxury. Research by the Kings Fund found that 87% of UK households have a garden; but for those 13% without outdoor space, the past few months would have been a very different experience.
“Hitting our housing target of 300,000 new homes a year is one thing, but building homes of real quality that people want to live in is quite another”
But it is not just outdoor space that is important to us: the lockdown has also highlighted that inadequate, poor-quality indoor space is an equal challenge for so many UK households.
The lockdown will mean that the housebuilding industry does not hit the government’s target of building 300,000 homes this year. Savills reported in April that building had stopped on more than 220,000 homes – almost 80% of last year’s total supply. And even as construction sites have now reopened, we will not see the same levels of productivity as we did pre-COVID, with social distancing measures being observed and inevitably slowing progress on sites.
But we can use this moment as an opportunity to rethink and redefine our housing priorities. Hitting our housing target of 300,000 new homes a year is one thing, but building homes of real quality that people want to live in is quite another.
Ensuring people have homes to live in is more than just a numbers game. At Thrive, we pride ourselves on creating good quality homes where people enjoy living , where memories can be made, and where families can live safely, securely, and in real comfort. Our aim is to provide 10,000 good, quality homes by 2028 as we reach our twentieth birthday as an organisation.
There is undoubtedly a need for new homes to help solve the housing crisis, but this crisis may mean the industry and the government revaluates what truly matters when it comes to housing.
We urgently need a shift in mindset from quantity to quality and creating homes and spaces where people want to live.
Image: Jack Burnham, Development director, Thrive Homes
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