As housing prices continue to spiral out of reach for many would-be homeowners, and Britain’s housing supply deficit surpasses 1.2 million properties, the housing crisis faced by the construction industry is one that commands serious attention. Though many might blame the current crisis on a lack of housing supply, it’s clear that there are other factors at play in the development of this challenge. As society adapts to the changing world around us, so too do our housing requirements. Here, Jim Laird, Chief Executive of Flooring Republic, examines the changing needs of an evolving property market; exploring the tangible impact this change is having on both consumers and the construction industry.
A changing population
As we move away from the 20th century ‘nuclear family’ dynamic at home and into a multicultural age of diversity, new homes catering to alternative family formats have become an outright necessity in the housing market. Changes in the family dynamic - such as couples living without children or single parents bringing up children alone - has meant that our housing market now needs to diversify or risk missing the needs of the public. Agitating the issue is a rapidly aging population with needs that are also not currently being met. With over 50% of people aged 65 and over living in unsuitable homes in terms of both size and practicality, and the current property market not able to meet their demands for smaller homes, this demographic represents one of the greatest challenges to our property market.
With the UK population estimated to hit 74.3m by mid-2039, the government must build around 240,000 houses per year to meet demand. For the construction industry, hitting this number is a challenge in itself. Older methods of building must make way for smaller, efficient, quick-to-build units that minimise cost - but this is easier said than done. Compromising on quality can have harmful long-term effects, so developers must take adequate precautions to ensure they don’t sacrifice essential build elements to hit targets - or we may find ourselves worse off in the long run.
On top of the housing crisis is an environmental one, as the creeping danger of climate change continues to be an issue we all must join together to tackle. With rising government construction targets, concerns over the environmental impact of new home builds has appeared to wane in recent years. However, the presence of exhibitions bringing green housing innovations to the forefront of property, such as Ecobuild, demonstrates that the market is there and is ready to be embraced by larger developers. Additionally, green certification programs like BREEAM have steadily rose in popularity in recent years, reflecting the rising demand from consumers for sustainable housing.
Achieving truly sustainable housing isn’t a one-step process, and the needle on what truly defines ‘green housing’ is shifting all of the time. Sustainable construction materials are becoming increasingly affordable and commonplace, with materials traditionally thought of as ‘green’ making way for new materials previously thought of as unsustainable. For example, wood flooring now sits at equal measure with concrete, thanks to progress in the development of materials. What’s clear is that, though progress is being made, a focus on green builds needs to take centre-stage in the fight for long-term sustainability - as it’s something consumers, and the planet, are crying out for.
Comfort and convenience
As city-wide housing focuses shift from outwards to upwards, properties have consequently become more compact. For these smaller homes to function effectively, comfort and convenience has moved from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have - as without these elements, living standards undoubtedly diminish in smaller spaces. Even outside of our bigger cities, evidence suggests that houses are getting smaller. For some consumers, the trend is welcome - and a rapid rise in the number of ‘tiny homes’ is a definitive indicator of that. An interior trend towards multi-functional furniture and smart storage mirrors this change, and many consumers are embracing the change of pace. For the construction industry, making smaller homes work for families has meant innovation has become a key component of new home builds. Space is at a premium, so making this work for homeowners has become priority - particularly in cities where space is often more restricted.
The challenges faced by the construction industry appear from all angles. Whether it’s an increasingly aged and diverse population, questions over long-term environmental sustainability or a shifted focus towards efficiency, the needs of consumers have changed dramatically since the term ‘nuclear family’ was coined in the 20th century. In the face of adversity, the construction industry will adapt, learn and grow as it always has - but it’s up to individual companies to take the lead, innovate, and tackle the fundamental issues head on.