Opinion

Social Value Act is changing housebuilding

28 October 2019 | By Ashley Wheaton

There can be social and financial gains if new housing developments focus on residents’ health and wellbeing, writes Ashley Wheaton.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a community with high “social value”? Somewhere that positively impacts on health and wellbeing, sources local building materials, delivers employment opportunities, has good air quality and provides a platform for local businesses to thrive.

Sustainable development is not a new idea, but climate and human geography issues have brought it sharply into focus.

In 2012, the Social Value Act placed a formal requirement on public sector organisations to consider the economic, social and environmental benefits for communities, as well as overall cost, when awarding contracts. This is only going to become more important in choosing development partners.

Research shows that sustainable development does not have to affect profit. In fact, the developments with higher social capital are the ones retaining their value and proving more resilient to the local market, compared to neighbouring developments. As well as making higher than average profit, they also provide residents with a strong sense of community spirit – encouraging communities and local businesses to thrive.

University College of Estate Management recently launched The Value of Community report in partnership with the Prince’s Foundation. Savills produced a financial study for the report that revealed the long-term economic benefits of a sustainable approach to housebuilding. This report provides yet more concrete evidence that this approach results in long-term social and financial gains.

At the event were 80 influential landowners, there to discuss development projects across the UK. These landowners are choosing partners with a focus on sustainability.

I have seen some brilliant examples of sustainable developments, such as BedZED, an eco-village in South London that boasts major energy savings and lower bills, abundant green space and continued above-market sale prices.

If we put residents’ health and wellbeing at the heart of our developments then we can not only make a sustainable long-term profit, we can build communities to be proud of.

Ashley Wheaton is principal of the University College of Estate Management

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