Housebuilders need to create communities rather than just developments by studying how to add social value

There is no doubt that delivering large housing developments will have an impact on a local environment and its community. Housebuilders need to ensure that they are creating socially useful developments that contribute to local economies and help transform our UK landscape for the better now and over the long term. 

However here lies the issue we face with housebuilding in the UK. Most housebuilders will not have a long-term investment model for their developments. They will look to build, sell and then move on. There is therefore little motivation to think long term as ultimately they will not be reaping the benefits as they will have already sold out. This is not a criticism, but a fact.  

Housebuilders need to look at how their developments can support the local economy and community around an asset over the long term

Housebuilders need to look at how their developments can support the local economy and community around an asset over the long term. This might mean looking at whether we are bringing the right amenities back into an area and ensuring we are creating vibrant and healthy communities where people will want to live. It can also be about how much green space you add, how many school visits you make or how we might be able to help the locally disadvantaged. 

We have started to look at how much social value we can create at Buckler’s Park in Crowthorne, our new 250-acre housing community in Berkshire by looking at three main areas:

  • Utilising a social value tool kit - so we can monitor and communicate how much value we have created to the benefit of the local community.
  • Procurement - included a weighting on social capital creation on our tendering.
  • Empowering local community - creation of the UK’s first Social Value Charter. This is a long-term, up-front, public commitment by a development investor to deliver positive community impact to the future population in a specific named place. It is measured in a total social value number in pounds and by specifying the assets being created for the community’s benefit. This is on top of what development investors have to do through section 106 and planning obligations and is a voluntary commitment.

These areas highlight the importance of working with the local authority and stakeholders starting a dialogue from the outset on how our investments could benefit local people. They should then feel empowered to think about what they could gain from our development activity.

By embedding social value into your business you can help regenerate derelict urban areas to improve a community, bring more jobs to the local area, maximise land density and increase economic productivity. This means that the houses we build will be more valuable as an area improves. This is why it is commercially valuable for all housebuilders to think about the impact of their investment, even if they do adopt a shorter-term approach. 

We need to adopt a different mind-set. This is much more than just building houses; it is about creating first-class communities that are long-lasting and transformative.

James Lidgate is chief executive at Legal & General Homes