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The residential sector had a particularly positive February with £1.7 billion contracts awarded, an increase of 13.1% on January. Residential unit numbers also increased – up by 5.4% on January at 9,850 units. Following residential in terms of contracts awarded was infrastructure with a 13.9% share and education with a 12.3% share.

Barbour ABI

The latest edition of the Economic & Construction Market Review from industry analysts Barbour ABI highlights levels of construction contract values awarded across Great Britain. This month it shows the total value of construction contracts awarded in February 2019 was £5.4 billion which is a 0.5% decrease on January, but 10.6% higher than February 2018.

The top project awarded during February was the £250 million redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks which sees Multiplex Construction Europe provide a total of 88 residential units in a single 5 storey structure. The largest infrastructure contract was the £110 million redevelopment of the former Royal London Hospital site in Tower Hamlets to provide a new civic centre and council offices. The largest overall education contract was in Edinburgh and was the £90 million redevelopment and extension of the Darwin Building for the University of Edinburgh.

Barbour ABI

Rural landowners have warned that the lack of flexibility in new planning rules which prevent a mix of affordable and market homes from being built on special sites in the countryside will severely limit the chances of solving the rural housing crisis.

The Government has published a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which claims to help build more homes, more quickly in places where people want to live. But according to the CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, changes made to the criteria for Entry Level Exception Sites will now encourage less land being made available for much needed homes in the countryside.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said “The new rules now state that all properties on an Entry Level Exception Site must be affordable. While we desperately need affordable homes so people can live and work in the countryside, the reality of the policy means that landowners will not bring land forward because the incentive of including market homes on the site has been removed. Without the benefit of cross subsidy, the decision to release land for housing is not financially viable so fewer homes are likely to be built.

“In the last five years, 13% of CLA members have donated or sold land at a discount for affordable housing. We made a robust case to the Government for greater incentives to help grow this figure but by making it less attractive for landowners, the Entry Level Exception Site policy severely limits the chance to solve the rural housing crisis.”

More than one in seven young Britons (14 per cent) would be willing to buy a house with a total stranger – in a desperate bid to get on the property ladder, according to nationwide research.

A new study of 2,000 Brits (aged 18 – 40) by HSBC, has revealed the true extent to which buying a property now feels completely out of reach for the younger generation, with a staggering 83 percent claiming they will probably NEVER be able to afford to buy their own property.

According to the report, 80 per cent would co-own and share a property with someone who is not their partner, with a further 59 per cent saying they’re “open to the idea” of buying with a stranger – if they ticked all the boxes.

As a result of the findings, HSBC is running a unique speed-dating style event on February 15th –National Singles Awareness Day – to bring together people interested in meeting someone they could potentially co-buy with.

A desperate 4 per cent said they would be prepared to move in with “a mate from the pub”, while just under one in twenty are so desperate to get on the property ladder, they would EVEN be prepared to buy with an ex.

And the study revealed modern Brits have a clear idea of the top traits the PERFECT housemate or ‘homebae’ should have, with odour free and clean and tidy in the top five.

The list of attributes also includes being able to cook a cracking roast, earning over 50k a year, having a penchant for a good BBC drama, having a good credit rating – and (in an ideal world) NOT being a vegetarian or vegan.

Being calm under pressure was a top trait for 42 per cent of people and 35 per cent would rather share a home with someone who DOES NOT play music too loudly – and 28 percent said they would like someone who is a good listener.

While clean, serene and someone who is a financial dream were topping the list of priorities for co-ownership, people said their pet peeves include extreme mess (67 per cent), irritating behaviour (61 per cent), someone bringing undesirable people home (42 per cent) and people not paying their share of household bills (30 per cent).

27 percent said their annual salary would not get them a big enough mortgage to but a property where they would like to live, while 25 percent said it would be nice to split the bills with someone else.

Overwhelmingly 75 percent of young Brits said that if they get the chance they will buy a house purely to live in, rather than as a buy to let, while 9 percent said they will rent out a room to help with the mortgage.

“We understand the challenges that young buyers are facing today and that they are willing to think outside the box to get on the property ladder – even contemplating the idea of buying with a stranger,” comments HSBC mortgages expert Chris Pearson. “That’s why we’ve run this research on the perfect homebuying partner and are holding Home Bae, the UK’s first-ever speed dating event for co-buyers.”

“Buying a home is a life-changing financial commitment and there’s no doubt this is an unorthodox way of doing it. People who are considering this step need to not only find someone responsible and compatible – they also need to dot every “I” and cross every “T” to avoid a difficult situation in the future, especially when it comes to selling. It’s important to have a clear agreement in place from day one so you both know what’s expected of you.”

Focusing on the check list of what’s really important to you is essential, according to relationship coach Sam Owen, who says “The quality of our relationships is more important than how many friends we have or whether we have a romantic partner.

“Even one good person in your life, like a ‘house-partner’ you buy a home with, could be a lifeline, especially in a world with increasing physical and sometimes even psychological distance between us. It’s a partnership so you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any deal-breakers and they really tick your boxes.”

The study is part of HSBC’s annual Beyond the Bricks report which looks at home-buying habits and attitudes across the world.

According to Brits, the perfect housemate:

  1. Pays the bills on time – 80 percent
  2. Is clean and tidy – 70 percent
  3. Keeps the bathroom clean – 56 percent
  4. Does NOT have body odour – 51 percent
  5. Is open to compromise – 48 percent
  6. Is calm under pressure – 42 percent
  7. Can do DIY – 39 percent
  8. Has savings in the bank – 38 percent
  9. Loves pets – 37 percent
  10. Is fun loving – 36 percent
  11. Does not play loud music – 35 percent
  12. Has a good credit rating – 31 percent
  13. Is a good listener – 28 percent
  14. Keeps the fridge well stocked – 26 percent
  15. Is a meat-eater – 24 percent
  16. Does NOT talk too much about themselves – 23 percent
  17. Lets you borrow their things – 23 percent
  18. Will deal with all the household admin – 22 percent
  19. Lends you books and movies – 20 percent
  20. Loves a good BBC drama – 19 percent
  21. Has monthly savings targets – 19 percent
  22. Earns over 50k a year – 18 percent
  23. Cooks a cracking roast – 18 percent
  24. Does a “chemist run” when you’re ill – 17 percent
  25. Likes to be in bed by 11pm – 17 percent
  26. Has a Netflix account – 16 percent
  27. Has a family holiday home somewhere warm and sunny – 16 percent
  28. Does not snore – 16 percent
  29. Owns a car – 15 percent
  30. Is stylish – 13 percent

A vital independent review into understanding why hundreds of thousands of homes haven’t been built – despite having planning permission – is now underway, according to the Government.

Originally announced at Autumn Budget, the review, led by Sir Oliver Letwin will look to explain the gap between the number of planning permissions being granted against those built in areas of high demand.

Currently, after planning permission is granted a variety of factors can prevent development from starting and slow down delivery and the review wants to determine why.

As of July 2016, just over half the 684,000 homes with planning permission had been completed.

The review will seek to identify the main causes of the gap and will make recommendations on practical steps to increase the speed of build out. Latest evidence shows that residential planning applications are up and that time to process major applications continues to be at a record high.

Sir Oliver Letwin, Chairman of the Review Panel, said “This government is serious about finding ways to increase the speed of build out as well as tackling the complicated issues surrounding it.

“That’s why we have set up this diverse panel to help me test my analysis and to make practical, non-partisan recommendations, as we look to increase housing supply that’s consistent with a stable UK housing market.”

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said “We are determined to build the homes this country needs, but currently there is still a significant gap between the number of planning permissions being granted and the number of homes built.

“This review is vital to helping us understand how we can build more homes quickly.

“All parties have a role to play in closing the gap and I look forward to receiving Sir Oliver’s findings.”

The review will be conducted in 2 phases:

Phase 1 – currently under way – will seek to identify the main causes of the gap by reviewing large housing sites where planning permission has already been granted. This will include information-gathering sessions with local authorities, developers, non-government organisations and others. Early findings will be published in the interim report.

Phase 2 will make recommendations on practical steps to increase the speed of build out, which will be published in the full report.

The review will also consider how to avoid interventions which might discourage house building or hinder the regeneration of complex sites.

Sir Oliver will be assisted by a team of leading experts:

  • Richard Ehrman – author, small commercial property developer and former journalist. Former special adviser to the Secretary of State for Employment and subsequently Northern Ireland, onetime Chief Leader Writer of the Daily Telegraph, and former Deputy Chairman of Policy Exchange
  • Lord Jitesh Gadhia – Member of House of Lords and investment banker
  • Lord John Hutton – (Labour) Peer and former Secretary of State
  • Rt Hon Baroness Usha Prashar CBE, PC – (Crossbench) Peer with a career spanning public, not for profit and private sectors, currently Deputy Chairman, British Council and a non-
  • Executive Director of Nationwide Building Society
  • Christine Whitehead – Emeritus Professor of Housing Economics at London School of Economics

Is it possible to develop around a quarter of a million new homes in London by building apartments above rail lines? The answer is yes, according to a new report published today.

The report, entitled ‘Out of Thin Air’, says there is the potential to provide all the new homes London needs if existing engineering techniques were used to construct apartment blocks directly above rail, Overground and Underground lines.

Research from the report identified all rail tracks in Transport for London’s (TfL) fare zones 1-6 where there were no breaks in the track made by tunnels, roads or bridges and where there was ten metres of available land on both sides. This would allow for the development of 100m² apartments in buildings rising to 12 storeys. If a conservative 10% of this total was delivered it would provide 250,969 new homes.

The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Croydon and TfL Zones 2, 3 and 4 provided the most ‘overbuild’ development potential.

Rail lines with development potential:

Available rail lines for development

Number of hectares available by borough:

Available land by borough

Bill Price, WSP director, said “We have to be more creative in using existing space in what remains a relatively low-rise city. The air rights above rail tracks present an unrealised but significant opportunity to build more new homes on brownfield land. It’s important to emphasise the engineering is absolutely possible and not new. We have been working on projects of this nature in New York for decades. Right now in London we are working on a variety of projects that rise above rail lines including a 50-storey residential tower, homes above a new Crossrail station and even a Premier League stadium.”

“There is a wider point about how we can better connect communities and unlock new homes not just above rail lines but adjacent to them as well. In some parts of London rail lines act as accidental segregators. By ‘decking’ over these lines, such as the proposed regeneration west of Earls Court underground station, we can join together sites to unlock an even higher number of new homes and create new vibrant communities.”

The thinking behind the report emerged after Network Rail appointed WSP in 2012 to study the feasibility of building above rail lines. The study’s conclusions, which focused on the type of decking and noise and vibration issues are detailed in the new report. CGI designs are also provided of what rail overbuild might look like if implemented near a major rail terminal in Central London, above a rail line in West London, and above a station in North London.

Out of Thin Air follows a previous WSP report, ‘Building Our Way Out of a Crisis’, which argued that up to 630,000 new homes in London could be found by building apartments above public buildings such as hospitals and schools.