By David Cowans, Chief Executive, Places for People

The pressure is on to build as many new homes as possible and last month’s Spring Statement and announcements by the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary set out the government’s intention to tackle the UK’s housing shortage. By the mid-2020s the government is aiming to invest over £44 billion with a target of building 300,000 homes on average each year.

But while the government’s ambitious targets and investment are both welcome and necessary to attempt to meet the current housing demand, we must recognise that the housing market isn’t just about properties. It is also about place and people.

This focus on the quality of place is integral to our approach at Places for People. Our aim is to build communities where people want to live, both through high-quality housing and also the surrounding infrastructure that brings neighbourhoods to life.

Our Brooklands development in Milton Keynes is a prime example of this. We’ve not only built high-quality homes to suit different lifestyles, but helped to establish a thriving community, with three schools, health facilities, shops and great transport links, all set within 100 acres of parkland with playgrounds, ponds and over 30,000 trees. Brooklands residents are only 10 minutes away from the bustling centre of Milton Keynes and it’s part of the reason why Brooklands is so popular.

Our focus on place goes further than just homes. As a leading UK placebuilder, we realise we have a responsibility to consider the impact of housing on the environment. Sustainability is key to our approach, and we are proud to be setting new standards when it comes to combining carbon-conscious living with clean, contemporary design.

Our Roborough Eco Homes in Plymouth are built to last. Fitted with the very latest in energy-saving technology, they are highly energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. At our Golden Mede development in Oxfordshire we’ve designed the homes with sustainability in mind, with energy-saving features making homes around 20% more efficient than a typical new property. This doesn’t just help the environment, but also helps our residents save money on energy bills.

Technology also plays a vital role. We are proud to be leading the way when it comes to using technology to enable residents to manage their homes. 

For example, residents in our Brio Retirement Living properties will enjoy enhanced security and comfort through bespoke technology at their fingertips, which will allow them to adjust lighting and heating with the touch of a button, while also enabling them to manage care requirements. Similarly, our partnership with Swedish housebuilder Trivselhus has brought the very latest in smart technology to new homes in Milton Keynes, where residents can put the kettle on, open the blinds and even warm up their towels ahead of their morning shower – all from their iPhone or iPad.

Ultimately, the success of the government’s housing policy should be measured by the number of homes built. But there is more to tackling the UK housing crisis than building more homes.  We must focus on the quality of homes and the infrastructure that supports them and the communities they house.

There’s always more to do but we all need to show that a bold and forward-looking approach to the UK’s housing challenge can pay dividends. This is an opportunity for our industry to make a lasting difference – and I’m optimistic that we can do it together.

This blog first featured in Inside Housing on Friday 20 April 2018.

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