This summer, the LSE Centre for Economic Performance released a report entitled ‘Covid-19 and social mobility’, which said Britons under the age of 25 “face declining social mobility unless bold moves are made to create a fairer society”.
As developers, we have an opportunity – a responsibility, even – to help build a better future for young people through the creation of places that allow them to flourish.
To raise awareness of this, we recently partnered with WhiteHat, a tech start-up that provides young people with an alternative to university through apprenticeships. Together, we ran a competition calling for architects to present radical ideas for housing to improve young people’s life chances.
Ideas included: innovative modular systems to deliver affordability and space efficiency; shared, pandemic-safe amenities to foster community-building and networking; and the prioritising of space to work effectively from home.
We discovered a wealth of fresh thinking about housing. To harness this, developers and investors must recognise that we are at a critical juncture in the provision of homes for future generations.
Encouragingly, we are beginning to see the property industry shift from viewing ESG as a marketing theme to understanding its significant commercial value. Investing in good housing for young people is not only the right thing to do; it also makes good business sense, enhancing corporate reputations and building a track record that will reassure local authorities. It is now time to translate good intentions into exemplar projects.
Models such as BTR and co-living have the potential to transform the way young people live, providing an opportunity to create affordable, flexible homes that allow them to access communal amenities and network and socialise with their neighbours and peers.
We are already beginning to develop exemplars with the architects we met through our competition, and I would urge other developers to start talking to designers about housing to boost life chances.
Damien Sharkey is managing director of HUB