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Downsizing by the Punk generation

Image result for punk design

It seems fitting that Tory housing minister Gavin Barwell has lost his seat in this month’s General Election because his Government has consistently failed to take the lead in solving the UK’s housing crisis.

He and his predecessors turned a blind eye to the tens of thousands of empty London homes owned by foreign companies and individuals.

They have watched as the UK’s property market has turned from an ‘own your own home’ ambition to one in which it is almost impossible to buy a new home in the centre of our towns and cities as companies latch onto to the profits to be made from the ‘built to rent’ generation.

There is still no obvious strategy for encouraging development in the places that need it and housing seems to be one area of policy where ‘leaving it to the market’ is not the whole answer.

The big plc housebuilders focus on large family homes on the outer edges of towns and cities, suburbs already well-served by mature three and four bedroom plus garden and garage housing stock.

These are owned by people in the last few decades of their lives, many of whom have raised children, supported the local schools and community and now want to focus on their own dreams and desires.

Downsizing is a trend that should be taking off far more quickly than it is doing. Today’s potential downsizers – the 50 – 75 age group – were teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in other words the punk generation.

They’ve grown up used to the concept of urban grit and one of the biggest trends in music and club life today is nostalgia for the 1980s.

This Generation X doesn’t have a problem with living In The City, as the Jam once sang. Their valuable suburban semi will more than adequately pay for a downtown pad. But, you can bet they want a spacious well-designed apartment with quality fittings and they don’t mind paying for it.

Their problem is these homes are not being built right now. The glut of new flats in city centres are mainly shoebox sized aimed at renters who have little choice, rather than buyers who would tell the developer and agent the pads they are trying to shift aren’t big enough to swing a mike stand round, let alone host a jukebox party for like-minded downsizing music lovers.

Servicing the downsizer market has several win-win scenarios. Cities get quality homes built in their centres, selling frees up family homes for a new generation with young kids, retail and leisure businesses get new, cash rich customers to satisfy, brownfield land and derelict buildings get regenerated adding a new chapter to the built environment for generations to enjoy for years to come.

A government is needed that give incentives to developers to satisfy this new market and gives local councils the power and leeway to facilitate the right sort of development unique to their local conditions.

The money that will be released into the economy through greater movement of property, extra stamp duty, etc, will filter into Government coffers.

This kind of quality development will also help to raise values to encourage and enable more landowners to regenerate in the right way.

Build enough of the right new homes and there can be a sustainable balance between owning and renting, young professionals’ pads and family townhouses, loft living and warehouse conversions, cutting edge environmentally responsible homes that cost more to build, but will prove worth it in the future.

A whole mix of exciting new neighbourhoods and new urban villages to bring back to life our often moribund and dilapidated city centres.

Large areas of our towns and cities are not owned by property developers, but individuals and companies who need encouragement and guidance to join the Regeneration Party – that’s who I would have voted for yesterday given half a chance.

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Neil Thornton

Neil Thornton

Director at Thornton Media
Neil Thornton is an award-winning writer and journalist who is an expert in property, housing, architecture and design.

He has been at the forefront of the UK property scene for 15 years and has been published in major newspapers, magazines and influential websites around the world.
Neil Thornton
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