All across the land, those ubiquitous cranes, which once bestrode the cityscape like robotic daddy-long-legs, have vanished. Weak building firms are insolvent or merging with rivals. Construction has all but stopped, but with developers currently so quiet, I’m wondering what they’re up to. What are they plotting? What evil plans are they dreaming up?
Property development is in a holding pattern, but investors still own land, ear-marked for future use. These brown-field land-banks remain in stasis, often covered in advertising hoardings. Eventually, property developers will wake up their dormant assets, and building will begin again. But what will they build? More of the same? We can’t let that happen. We have an opportunity here. We must stop them while we can.
Here’s a crazy idea. Why not ask tenants how they want to live? Many buy-to-let investors never see the finished product, although I hope that by now, landlords have grasped the stupidity of buying off-plan and then wondering why the end result is a hovel. Then again, if common sense ruled the world, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
Buildings must not be constructed solely for the ease and profit of developers, allowing them to wriggle their slimy way out planning regs and common decency. Landlords should only invest in property they could imagine living in themselves. The flat I live in now has, fortunately for me at least, managed to make humane, civilised use of the allocated space and materials. It can be done, and doesn’t cost so much that managing accountants will splutter and die. So once again, why not ask the tenants how we want to live?
Just gather round those who do, have or in certain cases are destined to live in newbuild flats aimed at buy-to-let, and buy some wine and nibbles. Focus groups can easily distort questions, so none of this ‘…how much do you love your flat,’ and then reporting how these ‘dwellings are adored by all’ business; we’re on to you. And yes, I’ve heard the joke about a giraffe being a horse deigned by a committee, but this is different. We pay for these buildings, and as for the worst examples, well, we’re united in one thing: need better build quality.
Architects, builders, councils, planners, mortgage providers and investors would benefit from accurate research on attitudes to quality, layout, size, numbers of (separate!) rooms and storage. You could be forgiven for thinking that at similar meetings in the past it was decided that tenants actually want to pay extortionate rents for (ooh, yes please!) tiny Spartan matchboxes.
Oh, and soundproofing. In my new home, we can play music at a fair level without noise seeping through. I can’t hear my neighbours cough, or fart (worryingly I could in Dovecot Towers.) If anyone bothered ask us, we’d have told you how important that is. Tenants deserve some consideration, choice, and control over how they live, without orthodoxies like open-plan living being foisted upon them. Developers, builders and architects: are you paying attention?