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Parity in quality between public and private housing - is it really possible?

In this latest Q&A interview, PIT speaks to Convivia Group's Roy Ledgister about creating parity between social and private housing, and the role private investment has to play in this. He also discusses sustainability, affordability and how more developers can be encouraged into the public sector.

Some are sceptical about creating genuine parity in terms of the quality of private and public housing - what do you say to this?

Many are sceptical as genuine parity between public and private housing hasn’t been achieved before.


However, our core purpose as Convivia is to create inspiring spaces, which will bring people and places together to build fun communities and transform lives.

We wouldn’t be able to achieve this by operating in conventional boundaries, but in establishing our own unique financial and procurement model, we can deliver a specification for all public housing developments that is on par with the upper end of the private sector – making luxury accessible to all.

There is nothing social about social housing. In order to transform both perceptions and reality, we need to change the space that is provided – not only because everyone, regardless of their background, deserves equal standards in living, but because in doing so we will able to make a genuine difference to both the physical and mental well-being of thousands of individuals UK wide.

So yes, sceptics are well within their rights to raise an eyebrow, as the delivery of public housing at any quality standard has proven difficult as the economics simply do not work. But in the words of Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Shouldn't it be the government's responsibility to ensure public/social housing is of a good enough quality - why is private enterprise needed?

It should be the government responsibility to deliver quality public housing but due to the sheer demand for homes, the government does not have the ability through existing local infrastructure to satisfy it. In the absence of stock, government has had to lean on the private sector which in turn has provided homes of varying quality over the years.

Due to fiscal changes more recently, and the sheer price of land, this private supply has dried up and stock has been diverted towards the more lucrative private sector. Unfortunately, in order to make sense of the economics, shortcuts are taken at times and quality is reduced with the tenant suffering as a result.

How can more developers be encouraged to invest in the public sector? Are returns as good there?

The provision of homes in the public sector is unattractive for many developers as the income is relatively low in comparison to the private sector, though the cost of land and construction remains the same. In addition, the longevity of income can be more assured in the private sector, as - dependent on the model employed - the pound for pound yield will be stronger. What’s more, the latest data shows that the market rent rate for the public sector is 20% lower compared to the private sector.

However, I believe that developers could be encouraged to deliver more public housing if the government were to introduce a fiscal incentive such as reduction in stamp duty. Removal of other levies could also prove beneficial, together with any other measures to compensate the developer for the 20% reduction of income that they would suffer. 

Ultimately, it also comes down to the motivation behind property development. Our core purpose is to transform lives by revolutionising the public housing sector – and although data and stats highlight a financial challenge, we have found a unique and innovative way to make this possible.

How important is sustainability and eco-friendliness when it comes to building new homes?

Sustainability and eco-friendliness are both incredibly important in delivering new homes. Regrettably, many of the innovative measures are expensive and may not find their way into public sector development where margins are already thin. However, all developers have a responsibility to the planet to ensure that we do the very best we can to deliver sustainable stock.

Can homes be both quality and affordable? And what does affordable actually mean? Developers often have affordability quotas, but what is affordable to one may not be to many others.

It’s very subjective as to what ‘quality’ means in the affordable housing space. Some developers may have affordable quotas as part of their planning conditions, though often, the quality of this stock will not mirror that of the rest of their development.

In contrast, we have established a model that genuinely creates parity between luxury in the public and private sector. This means the design of our housing will be equal to high-end apartment complexes, as opposed to falling into the trap of delivering ‘quality Social Housing’, which is commonplace in developments across the UK.

*As part of our ongoing Black History Month investor special series, we spoke to Roy about barriers to investment for the black community, how more can get involved with property and his greatest achievement in his current role. You can read that interview here


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