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Greenshoots: Boost in residential starts

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The number of housing schemes starting on site has ballooned – bucking a worrying general trend that has seen an increase in projects being shelved

According to construction industry monitor Glenigan, the Glenigan Index value of private residential projects coming out of the ground was up 37 per cent during the three months to March 2010, compared with the same period last year.

Glenigan’s economics director Allan Wilen said: ‘Housebuilder confidence has been boosted by rising house prices and property transactions seen since last summer. This improvement is encouraging, and gradual strengthening in private residential construction is forecast for the coming months.’

The increasing confidence has been echoed by the RIBA’s monthly Future Trends Survey.
A spokesperson said: ‘Private housing continues to be seen as the sector offering the best growth prospects.’

Jo Wright, managing partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, said: ‘We are seeing the first green shoots of the residential market with several new commissions and an encouraging number of enquiries. However, the revival seems to be London-centric and less robust elsewhere.’

Joe Morris of Duggan Morris Architects is worried the rebound could be a ‘blip’. ‘We are definitely experiencing a significant surge
in clients scrambling to reignite mothballed schemes. The last three months has seen us working on no less than six major housing schemes. ‘

‘But it might only be a short term event, a little like the timing of the hatching season for mayflies; a spectacular event, but over before it started.’

Meanwhile, the total number of schemes being put on ice has rocketed from 389 in February to 547 in March. Both the healthcare and education sectors saw rises last month. According to the Future Trends Survey, predictions for public sector workloads had fallen to their lowest level since the monthly study began.

Number of all UK practices put on hold

Number of all UK practices put on hold (each month) - source Glenigan



Gregg Mitchell, group managing director Careyjones
‘The residential construction market certainly seems to be gathering pace in London, but nothing major as far as we can tell in the regions.’

Philip Doyle, director HKR
‘People are getting nervous on public sector but nothing actually stopping as yet. Residential wise Manchester is not seeing [a rebound] but I hear from our London office housing schemes are moving forward.’

Lindsay Urquhart, managing director of Bespoke recruitment
‘It’s certainly true the private residential market has picked up. Practices we haven’t heard from for 18 months or so have been in touch recently and are looking to hire people. Most of the requirements seem to be for fixed term contracts typically 3-4 months which I think reflects the fact that people are still being cautious despite the up turn.’

Oliver Jackson, of AAVA
‘It seams clear the [high end/high quality] end of the housing market in pockets of London never really suffered, confidence left for a while and nothing sold but values remained stable. It is a fact that all banks have pulled out of funding ‘flatted’ schemes and devalued people’s holdings which rocked confidence. But there was private money around before the crash and that is now beginning to come back into the market. Good quality design is now more important than ever from a sales point of view, to cut through in a competitive market.’

Craig Douglas, co-founder of Douglas and King Architects
We haven’t experienced any increase in workload from the residential sector and those projects we do have are all taking longer to get on site than they did a few years ago. Each stage leading up to the start on site is still being extended by slower decision making and correspondence between consultants. In particular, negotiations with agents acting for freeholders and management groups have been very drawn out and difficult to control.’


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