Helping to ease Peterborough's housing crisis through alternative living solutions

Given the Government's latest promise to address the housing crisis with billions of pounds worth of new build investments, the shortage of quality living accommodation is right back in the spotlight.

Wednesday, 22nd November 2017, 9:13 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:17 am
One of Ad Hocs Peterborough properties, a former Cathedral Deanery for the Peterborough Diocese

The situation in Peterborough is acute, despite it being part of the government’s London-Stansted- Cambridge-Peterborough growth corridor to provide approximately 25,000 new homes and around 24,600 new jobs by 2021. And even with the recent approval of 150 more homes for Cardea, current demand for housing in the city, is far outstripping its supply.

Not enough affordable housing

The moves to increase the housing stock are positive, but the proportion of actual affordable homes is not enough.

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Ultimately, developers want to make as much money as they can from their properties. They are unlikely to champion cheaper housing unless there are more incentives for them to do so.

The truth is that more affordable options are needed, and fast.

Meeting the accommodation demand with alternative solutions

Providers throughout Peterborough are working extremely hard on other options to ease the accommodation crisis including new builds and Property Guardianship.

More brownfield site building

Recent years have seen a significant increase in the regeneration of brownfield sites across Peterborough.

Some of the most high-profile projects have included the re-development of a former factory and bakery site in the Walton and Queensgate areas, which brought around 250 affordable properties to the city. And more recently Peterborough City Council has given the green light to regenerating 20 acres of derelict brownfield land at the Fletton Quays site. This is set to include 350 new apartments, along with the provision of offices, a large hotel and leisure facilities.

With fresh Government measures announced by the Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell, in April this year, councils will also have new tools to speed up development of derelict and underused land. Local authorities now have to produce and maintain up-to- date, publicly available registers of brownfield sites available for local housing. This enables housebuilders to identify suitable brownfield sites quicker, helping to unlock land for thousands of new homes.

Tiny House Movement

The tiny house movement is another emerging trend, with the number of tiny house builders growing all the time.

Available for a fraction of the cost of conventional housing, these custom built, fully insulated, luxury cabins are built like a house to last a lifetime. Typically constructed between 100 and 400 square feet in size, and available in a range of shapes, sizes and forms, the tiny house aims to enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.

While eco concerns and the ability to have tailor made designs is fueling interest in the tiny house movement, financial worries about the cost of conventional housing is one of the biggest drivers behind this alternative way of living.

Bringing more empty properties back into use

In figures released only a year ago, Peterborough Council cited that the city had approximately 540 properties that had been empty for six months or more. So much more needs to be done to bring these buildings back into circulation.

One such initiative the Empty Homes Premium, was introduced to give councils the ability to charge home owners 50% more council tax, if they left properties empty for two or more years. However, it has simply not been enforced sufficiently enough to make a difference.

More brownfield site and tiny house developments are helping to ease the shortage, but they take time to make a real impact, due to their reliance on planning, investors and developers.

By contrast, the beneficial effects of Property Occupation Model are immediate. Empty properties are quickly brought back into use, which is valuable to owners and Guardians alike. And compared to other more costly and complex options, Property Guardianship is a cost-effective solution that is both quick and simple to arrange.

A winning solution for guardians and owners

With market rents increasing all the time, interest in Ad Hoc’s Property Occupation Model continues to grow. It’s a winning formula, as Guardians get the opportunity to live in an affordably priced empty property and owners get the flexibility to decide what they want to do with their properties long term.

Guardianship can also provide an effective security and maintenance solution for property owners, as a live-in resident can deter squatters and vandals, while providing essential support in reporting any ongoing maintenance issues. This can enable owners to save up to 80% of the costs of paying for traditional security methods and significantly help to reduce their insurance premiums.

While Property Guardianship offers an effective short-term remedy to alleviate the accommodation crisis, the solution to ending the long-term housing crisis is not so easy.

It’s a point that Ad Hoc’s Peterborough Area Manager, Sarah Reid remains philosophical about: “There is no single solution to ending the crisis, as the housing issue is so complex and entwined in every part of society. We need to look at everything across the board from new-builds, re-builds and bringing empty properties back into circulation to doing more to empower housing authorities, regulate interest rates, foreign investments and develop ergonomic mobile homes on available land. Only then can we begin to make serious inroads into reducing the housing shortage.”

As one of the UK’s largest property guardian companies, Ad Hoc Property Management offers large and diverse property portfolio. With offices in Peterborough, Ad Hoc supports a huge number of property owners whose premises range from flats, houses, mansions, offices to libraries, churches, sports halls, pubs and post offices.