By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive, Places for People
The world is an increasingly complex, rapidly changing and volatile place and people talk about the uncertainty of the future a lot. However, there is a lot we already know about the likely themes of the future. We can’t predict all of it but we can play our part in inventing the future by what actions we take now.
The future is not tomorrow but starts today. Are we doing enough to innovate now to influence the future?
In practice, that means we will need to look more forensically at our existing and new homes, developments and places and take action now to improve their sustainability and our long-term impact on the environment.
From enhancing energy efficiency and implementing new technologies through to adopting innovative construction methods such as off-site manufacturing, there are many opportunities that we could and should pursue that could help to shape a greener future for all.
We have learnt that there is no one size fits all solution for people looking for a home. To be sustainable, communities need a choice of homes in a mix of tenures and at several price points, so our focus should continue to be on housing numbers but also types and tenures. This includes investing in shared ownership and starter homes to give people the extra support they need to get onto the housing ladder, regardless of their age, financial circumstances or background.
We also know that our population is ageing fast, so we must find ways to ensure there is sufficient high-quality housing for the older generation.
Developing retirement properties that can meet the changing needs and expectations of older people will make a positive contribution to the wider housing market as well as local communities. Increasingly, that will require us to alter the way we plan our cities, towns and villages, including paving the way for more retirement villages that improve the quality and experience of later life. This and housing for young people is also part of the answer to regenerating our emptying town centres.
Addressing these types of challenges isn’t easy, and there is still a lot to learn and implement, but if we don’t take the necessary steps now, experiment and be more proactive in our approach to housing delivery, we could face risks and missed opportunities.
Ultimately, the future is largely moulded by our actions now, so we should not be surprised by what it brings, whether that is positive or negative. That is why our focus must be on learning what we need to do now to shape the best possible housing outcomes, including environmentally-sustainable developments and high-quality thriving places that can meet the needs of all generations. We can all do our part to invent the future by starting now.