Deputy director of development at Genesis Housing Group, Tracy Williams applauds architects who respond to the way people live
What schemes are you working on?
We have a development programme of approximately 2,500 homes, many of which are part of major regeneration projects or large scale mixed tenure developments. One of our most exciting developments is a 700 home scheme including a 43-storey tower by Stock Woolstencroft in Stratford next
to the Olympic Park.
How have the last few years been?
Inevitably very tough for all new development activity. Confidence in the development industry has been at an all-time low and this has led to much greater scrutiny of the risks involved, especially where investment decisions are based on mixed tenure or market housing, as well as social housing. I foresee much lower levels of investment in new housing over the next few years and demand for new homes far outstripping supply in London.
How do you create successful communities in residential developments?
There is no magic formula for a successful community, though we continue to promote a variety of tenure types as a means to bring diversity and vibrancy, and a sense of place through well managed common spaces. We like to work with architects who, as well as having vision, can work with us to come up with practical, innovative and cost-effective ideas based on how people live in the real world.
How do you find your architects?
We have a framework of consultants, but also increasingly undertake fully OJEU-compliant competitions for our own sites. We also work with architects introduced by developers where we’re providing the affordable-only element of a scheme.
Will social housing schemes in the capital surpass pre-recession levels in the coming decade?
No. Social housing at pre-recession levels needs considerable subsidy that is unlikely to be available for the foreseeable future. We do see a growth in other areas, such as market rented products. Genesis also has a good track record in delivery of shared ownership housing, which needs less public subsidy and appeals to first-time buyers due to lower mortgage and deposit requirements.
Which of your projects is your favourite and why?
The most challenging: the redevelopment of the former Mildmay Mission Hospital in Shoreditch by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Matthew Lloyd Architects. It started on site in December 2011 and will include 139 new homes with a mix of social rent, shared ownership, private rent and sale, as well as a modern church and hospital facilities. It is a very constrained site with a long history; start on site was a culmination of almost 10 years of work to achieve a viable scheme with planning consent and lots of hard work.