Tonia Secker

Partner and head of affordable housing

Trowers & Hamlins

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Covid-19 has highlighted the tension between density, design, space standards, demand and funding. How do we build at the densities required in urban centres to allow safe access to wider space - private or communal? Can we build in ways to reduce the loneliness of single person households during future lock downs? How can we minimise overcrowding, particularly amongst those hardest pressed in society, to reduce future transmission risk? How do we avoid sending rough sleepers back to the streets as Covid-19 dwindles? How do we deliver new homes as live/work spaces to reflect new realities?

Building more, better, differently, more beautifully and sustainably are vital outcomes, but they require more access to land, a step change in design and approaches to placemaking and the resident experience across all tenures and affordability levels.

At the affordable end of the residential market, successful delivery of these outcomes will result in higher costs. Where is the money and land to come from and how can choices be made between the priorities that funding constraints will necessarily impose?

The provision of more genuinely affordable housing is widely accepted as a central solution to some of the questions posed above. "More" meaning around 145,000 homes per year. Whilst the £12 billion new Affordable Homes Programme is critical to supporting delivery, alone it cannot sustain supply at that scale, particularly if the costs of provision increase to take account of enhanced space standards or the costs of greater communal areas.

No single constituency within the housing sector can deliver the volumes of affordable housing necessary to respond to the post Covid-19 world. Creativity will be the watch word.

Now is the time for Government to look at housing more holistically and extend the regime of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) - either to increase the 500 home limit of infrastructure-related housing or to categorise affordable housing itself as national infrastructure and within the NSIP scope. Now is also the time for the public and private sectors to capitalise upon and expand the partnership initiatives undertaken to date - combining new sources of capital, innovative forms of delivery vehicles and new methods of construction to secure a greater supply of new homes, capable of meeting the changes (positive and negative) that Covid-19 has engendered.

Those in affordable housing have always driven change and innovation – the next chapter is waiting to be written.

“Simple - it is a 'one stop shop' for all things housing.”
D Ball, Ordnance Survey