With London’s population increasing so rapidly, it’s clear that providing enough new homes at an affordable level is going to be one of the key planning and development issues over the next few years.
As the capital’s demographic ages, we need more tenures and ways of delivering them through the planning process. Healthcare provision, too, must evolve to meet the needs of these generations.
But focusing solely on older living would be detrimental to the health and success of the capital overall, and to its place as a world city. We need to look to London’s long-term future, which means thinking about the next generation and their needs and desires for living and working in the city.
Their fresh perspective, new ideas and an openness to change, as well as new levels of connectivity and global awareness, should inspire new solutions for our homes, especially as what we build now may still be in place 100 years on.
It’s vital we have a forward-thinking stance and are guided by the trends emerging from this cohort as current plans evolve.
Our recent NextGen Roundtable brought together developers, investors and managers of the city’s housing (and other sectors) with advisors from Montagu Evans. The discussion considered what the City of Tomorrow needs to focus on from a younger perspective.
For us as a group, there were five key areas that should be factored in – with affordability and sustainability central to each. .
- Living & working habits – Pandemic-induced working from home has triggered a longer-term shift of office workers to spending more time at home. This not only means we demand different qualities from the physical space – such as separate working areas, better connectivity, more outdoor space – but also from our local environment. As we spend more time in our local areas, we need more amenity space such as coffee shops, green space and local clubs (Fraja et al, 2021). Designing for the end user, now and in the future, is vital and with constraints on land supply this requires creativity.
- Community – People within cities are lonelier than the regions (YouGov, 2019) and the pandemic accelerated isolation for some. Linked to the above, housing must facilitate better community engagement. This is even more important in tall high rise buildings.
- Wellbeing – How our wealth and wellbeing is supported by our homes is increasingly important. There is more that can be done to measure and communicate how our homes fare on factors like natural light and air quality, and in future developers may compete on these.
- Affordability – Affordability of homes for the next generation, particularly in London, is a well-versed topic. We discussed how we can balance meeting long term goals with the immediate pressures of the cost of debt and cost of living crisis as well as rising build costs. New ownership models should be brought to the fore, both in planning and development.
- Flexibility – Homes should be designed for reconfiguration and reuse. We have seen how rapidly our housing needs can change, so it is imperative that the homes we build now are fit for both now and the future.
Above all, it was clear from this discussion that younger Londoners demand more from their housing – from natural light, energy efficiency and wider sustainability to design, amenities and open space. Any increase in housing, therefore – whether it’s student housing, build to rent, or build to sell – must respond to these needs for future development to be successful.