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Will COVID-19 make the housing sector focus on quality over quantity?

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.

There’s no doubt that 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 the lockdown. Whilst so many of us take our outside spaces for granted, for some this access to the outdoors is an inaccessible luxury. Research by the King's Fund found that 87 percent of UK households have a garden; but for those 13 percent without outdoor space, the past few months would have been a very different experience – juggling the want to head outside with the challenges of socially distanced exercising in busy parks.

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 house building 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 percent of last year’s total supply. And even as construction sites have now reopened, we will not see the same levels of productivity pre-Covid-19, 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 that the industry and the government reevaluate 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.   

This post was original published by Housing Digital in February 2021.