After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.

Gavin Poole

Gavin Poole

CEO, Here East

This year needs to be a new starting point for business. We care deeply for all Here East’s tenants and hope businesses across industries have the support and resilience needed to come through this challenging period. For this to be achievable, we need a full evaluation of the way business operates.

Prioritising considerations of models of work, consumption behaviour and willingness to travel will be essential, particularly when it comes to the commercial property industry. Government support through tax mechanisms must continue both for those struggling and those sectors demonstrating good growth trajectory.

It has been said that business without cultural references would be dire. This also holds true for cities without culture. From both personal and corporate spheres, our cultural organisations and institutions need support. In the property industry, we can play a key role by prioritising innovative projects that do exactly that for the benefit of society as a whole.

David Woolman

Director, Woolbro Group

Last year proved how resilient the residential sector is. Many people reassessed their housing needs, with buyers still coming onto the market, fuelling an immediate surge in sales.

Although we are optimistic for 2021, several considerations need to be taken into account. While adjustments to Help to Buy won’t greatly affect buying patterns in London, sales outside the capital are likely to be impacted with the new regional thresholds.

For first-time buyers, the anticipated end to the stamp duty holiday will bring challenges for those who rely on this extra support. This, and the end of the furlough scheme, will impact the economy and affordability for many.

The main issue is the ability to build sufficient high-quality new homes to capitalise on demand. Outdoor space is now at a premium, with the design of developments impacted as buyers seek private gardens, additional space to accommodate working from home and off-street parking.

With emergency Covid-19 government support expected to end in March, we may see a steady decline of property sales, gradually recovering in 2022 in line with a predicted economic recovery.

Colin Cheung, Fabrix

Colin Chung

Financial director, Fabrix

We hope for a return of the energy and liveliness of town and city centres. The best urban environments are a vibrant and inclusive mix of hospitality, workspaces, retail uses with access to nature and engaging architecture.

One area that must be highlighted is culture. Theatre and concert venues large and small are essential features of urban life and further support needs to be made available.

Live performances provide audiences with a powerful connection with performers and other audience members of a shared, common experience. The anticipation of the opening curtain, shared laughter and joy of the audience, applause and cheers during and after the performance – none of this can be replicated by recorded or streamed events.

Galleries and exhibitions showcase thought-provoking pieces of art, expressions of creativity and fascinating history, expanding our horizons. Seeing physical exhibitions is a far richer experience to online alternatives.

We are proud to have strong connections to cultural events in London and host emerging artwork and musicians in our properties across the capital. We hope to do more of this in 2021.

Johnathan Crawley

Johnathan Crawley

UK MD, MiddleCap

I am optimistic we will enter the recovery phase during the course of this year, which will usher in a real revival for the return to the office. Last year saw much hype regarding the demise of the office, but it’s become clear our homes are ill-equipped for long-term working, not least as it will become very isolating.

Organisations looking at continued remote working will face issues around productivity and creativity. The office is and always will be more than just desk space. It adds huge social value by bringing colleagues together to connect, collaborate and create.

This year will be a catalyst for change in our office working environments. I expect the sector to increasingly turn to technology to support employee safety and wellbeing in unprecedented ways by using precise data to inform new patterns of working in a post-Covid world. Our sector is only at the start of innovating and investing in smarter buildings to ensure the role of the office for years to come.

James Zamchick

James Zamchick

Sales, marketing and commercial director, Places for People

Changes to the Help to Buy scheme should help stimulate the market in Q1 and it will be interesting to see how the chancellor responds to calls to extend the stamp duty holiday past March, seeing as it did such a good job in aiding economic recovery after the first lockdown.

In the build-to-rent sector, we’re likely to see shorter-term, flexible contracts on the rise, as well as zero-deposit schemes and pet-friendly homes. This sector will develop from a luxury, amenity-led approach at the top end of the market to a competitive product against traditional stock in the wake of greater demand.

This year, we are also likely to see some changes in the design and build of our homes; buyers’ priorities have shifted with our work/life balance, so properties need to evolve to match professional as well as personal needs.

I suspect that there will also be a more significant focus on sustainability – not just in physical materials, but wellness too, and masterplans will need to focus on public realm and community.

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