God, I miss the office. I even miss the four-hour round-trip commute. Yes, things are that bad – and I am one of the lucky ones.
I live in a detached house by the sea (worth less than our old one-bed in London before you accuse me of being smug). I can’t imagine what it must be like to be cooped up in flat shares as many of the editorial team are, having to rush toast in one hand, laptop in the other, to nab a space at the kitchen table like Germans rising at the crack of dawn to bag the best sun loungers on holiday.
The pandemic has not, as far as I know, prompted any of the team living in London to look further afield for accommodation offering more space and a garden. It has, however, left most of them desperately craving a return to the office and dreaming of better workspace – or just workspace – at home. Many would also love some outside space (a balcony would do) and to live within walking or cycling distance of work (public transport regarded with the same enthusiasm as being stuck on a Covid ward in hospital).
So what does this all mean for the UK housing market? We explore the impact of Covid-19 in this week’s housing special ahead of the RESI Convention, which was originally scheduled to take place next week but will now be held on 10 to 11 November.
There is no disputing that the pandemic has had a major impact on the sector. For one, it has accelerated trends such as ESG and the adoption of cutting-edge tech. Hence the theme of this year’s RESI Convention: Living Fast Forward. But are we about to see a total and lasting transformation of the sector; a new normal that looks nothing like the old one?
My gut instinct is no. I just do not see the home taking over from the office as the preferred full-time workplace. Even those I know with fancy home offices miss the social interaction so much they can’t wait to get back to the office. Neither am I convinced we will see people abandoning city living for the suburbs and provinces, as predicted by many in the early days of lockdown.
However, there are big changes on the way. BTR developers will have to rethink their amenities and services to better meet the needs of those working from home. Health and wellbeing will come increasingly to the fore – indeed, as our Hot Housing Index shows, alongside proximity to green belt land (aka outside access), they already have. Modular’s moment may finally have come and I suspect we will see more people buy second homes to staycation in (last month, I met up with a couple of contacts on holiday in Margate who liked it so much they tried to arrange a viewing – none were available for a fortnight).
Then there are the sweeping changes proposed by secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick in the planning white paper, which comes under heavy fire in this week’s issue from Lord Kerslake, Liz Peace and Steve Norris. One of their gripes is what Kerslake describes as “an astonishing lack of recognition” of the importance of affordable housing supply. They will be listening with interest when Jenrick delivers his keynote address at RESI – as I will be and I hope you will be, too.
You can attend the RESI Convention either online, or in person at Celtic Manor, Wales on 10-11 November.