The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, recently announced a virtual restart for the housing market. Furthermore, technology such as virtual viewings looks set to play an important part.
Hard Hit Housing
With the housing marking hit extremely hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic Mr Jenrick highlighted how 450,000 property buyers had to put their plans on hold and that 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal each month.
The pandemic has meant that people have been unable to move. Additionally, many have had to take advantage of mortgage holidays or have struggled with rent payments. Housing experts are now predicting a sharp drop in house prices this year.
How Technology Is Helping
Technology is helping with the restart of the housing and construction industries in several ways, these include:
- Estate agents are encouraged to conduct virtual viewings rather than in-person.
- Digital transformation projects under the Digital Street plan by HM Land Registry should allow buyers to carry out parts of the property buying process digitally. For example, using blockchain for contracts and signing deeds online.
- The first-ever virtual hearings for the planning inspectorate which Mr Jenrick has said should take place “within weeks”.
- The UK government using video, phones, and computers to vote remotely on debates.
On 13 May Mr Jenrick announced the following additional measures to help get the housing market and construction moving again:
- Firstly, the First Homes programme (later this year) will give a 30% discount on new homes for key workers. This includes nurses, teachers and police officers as well as local first-time buyers.
- Secondly, the opening of estate agents’ offices and show homes, removal companies and the other essential parts of the sales and letting process.
- And finally, enabling house-building sites to apply to extend their working hours. In residential areas to 9 pm Monday to Saturday and beyond that in non-residential areas.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The pandemic has forced many of those in government, business and other walks of life to realise the value of technology. It has allowed them to carry some work via video conferencing, collaborative cloud-based working platforms, or other tech tools.
The fact that aspects of the housing market and planning can be carried out in a ‘virtual’ way is positive news at an exceedingly difficult time for the industry.
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