The Changing Face of Social Housing

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. The increase in Community Housing Providers (CHPs) establishing and growing their social housing portfolios has resulted in a dramatic change in our social housing sector and impacts to the wider residential development sector.

A number of contributing factors have led to the development of a range of housing products which meet the needs of social housing tenants at a level we have never seen before in this country. The Property Group Limited (TPG) is working with a number of CHPs to identify underutilised or poorly developed land within their portfolios that have the potential for a comprehensive development approach. This approach not only accommodates innovative housing products fit for specific end users but also improves their portfolios’ financial performance.

The key objective of social housing will always be to provide a roof for those who need one. However, with CHPs we see a greater awareness that the physical space we occupy can have a positive or negative effect on mental health. Ensuring that people are well linked to the wider community by being close to community hubs with good access to transport is a key factor in improving the lives of those who occupy social housing. The challenge the sector faces is to deliver an affordable, long-lasting product that achieves these outcomes – out of this challenge comes the need for creativity and innovation.

Under Auckland’s Unitary Plan, CHPs have been pleasantly surprised at how their current properties can be utilised to not only house more people, but create quality desirable living environments at the same time. Through smart planning and urban design, land can be used in clever ways to ensure efficiencies are achieved whilst improving the quality of housing the end user enjoys.

TPG and our clients enjoy the benefits of having a team who can work together across Planning, Urban Design, Development Feasibility and Development Management. By taking a wider perspective, in some cases, TPG has been able to recommend the acquisition of adjoining sites to achieve substantially better development outcomes. This takes willingness for clients to be open to change and challenge their thinking.

The desire for change and innovation also flows through into the design of the units themselves. CHPs generally require robust products that are hardwearing and provide a light spacious environment for the tenant to enjoy and take pride in – the same attributes often sought for commercial environments, such as hotels and offices.

Applying a commercial mindset to the residential environment means adopting a ‘smart design’ approach from the outset to ensure less money is spent later on. We are now seeing robust but natural products being used and universal design standards being factored in. Conversations about the use of technologies and materials that reduce costs for both the landlord and tenants are also becoming increasingly frequent with clients from the beginning of the design process.

With CHPs having big housing aspirations, modest budgets, and a ‘long-term hold’ strategy for their portfolios, the need to be creative, innovative and take advantage of market opportunities remains a focus for TPG. Some of the projects we are currently working on with clients look set to change the face of social housing and offer some exciting innovations for residential developments.