Appointments Now Available - Read Our Latest Updates

Positive housing market development

 James Hopkins, CEO of the Hopkins Group.

As a house builder, you would expect me to be delighted by the government's announcement in May that show rooms could reopen and house moves resume. Kick starting the housing market is vital to the much-needed economic recovery and housing is, after all, about the provision of one of life's key needs. It's not a luxury.

So, I am delighted that all the marketing suites across Hopkins Homes and Hopkins & Moore developments reopened at the end of May and that to date we have seen a steady stream of appointments and house purchases.

We see visitors by appointment in advance and have put in place all the measures necessary to ensure that surfaces are cleaned after each visit, that marketing materials are not handled twice, that documentation is largely sent electronically, not as hard copy, and that our staff are well trained in how to keep themselves and our customers safe.

Reopening the housing market also meant that more of our people could get back to work and start building again, in turn supporting our suppliers and sub-contractors to do the same. A very positive development for all concerned.

And there remains no doubt about the absolute importance of providing more homes - there are just too many people struggling to get on the housing ladder. They are paying over the top in rent, forced to live in sub-standard accommodation or in property they have simply outgrown. We need many more starter homes for young people, houses for young families and bungalows and sheltered accommodation for older people too.

Across our region, we need to build more homes - which is just what you would expect me to say.

But, that simple fact has to be caveated. In my view, as we come out of the country's health emergency, we must not just dash-to-build. We must take the time to reflect on why the housing market doesn't work and why so many communities fear development and frequently oppose planning applications.

We need homes of quality design. We need houses that come with high quality infrastructure. And we need a new contract between housebuilders, local authorities and communities that creates a much more balanced win-win situation that we can all support and welcome.

If we are going to make the case successfully for more housing as we take the first tentative steps back towards economic and social recovery, then the government must do three things:

Invest in infrastructure - particularly roads, schools and health facilities, but also environmental infrastructure - access to well managed green open space is quite rightly going to be high on the agenda for many people.

Invest in communities - building homes is easy, creating communities much harder. We need a conscious partnership from all sectors to tackle this, making sure that as communities grow, they have the facilities and the resources to thrive. Personally, I think this is vital.

The recent Covid-19 emergency has clearly demonstrated the power and the importance of community.

Community groups have been at the heart of our response and will be central to how we shape a better future. We need to invest in them - give them resources, skills and long-term security. In particular, I am personally keen to see much greater emphasis on community-led service provision, such as shops and pubs.

Ensure that developers deliver much higher quality, sympathetically designed homes that reflect and fit in with their surroundings. Too many developments over the past few decades have been off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all designs that are not in keeping with existing villages or towns. It is no wonder that local people worry about housing developments, fearing the impact on their own lives and own communities.

I am determined that Hopkins Homes will continue to play its part in delivering this contract with communities. Five years ago, we built 250 homes in a year, last year we built nearly 1,000 - but, we maintain our commitmet to quality.

This commitment was recognised when we were awarded Best Medium Housebuilder at the What House? National Awards ceremony. The judging panel identified design as the major factor that differentiated us from the competition.

I am passionate about design values and it goes to the very core of every development.

Our homes must complement, respect and enhance their locality and benefit both the new and existing community.

We are also demonstrating our commitment to communities in other ways. The Hopkins Charitable Fund is delivering over £100,000 a year in financial support to local charitable and community projects.

This year we are focusing our support for charities who are at the front of the response to the virus, including £45,000 in grants to Suffolk and Norfolk charities helping directly with the terrible increase in domestic violence during this period.

As I said earlier, I also think that community-led services are crucial to delivering local pride and resilience. So I am delighted that we have launched a new partnership with the Plunkett Foundation - the Hopkins Plunkett Communities Scheme - to offer help and advice to community shops and pubs as they adapt to the changing circumstances brought about by social distancing, and yet at the same time have an ever greater role to play in keeping our communities together.

So, I remain proud to be a house builder. Proud of what we create, but conscious too of our responsibilities to our communities.

That matters more now than ever.