Ashford Property Market: Do We Have the Right Sort of Homes for the 21st Century?

Would it surprise you to know that in some parts of Ashford, predominantly prosperous areas with high proportions of mature residents, the housing crisis is not one of supply so much as dispersal of that supply?

Theoretically, in Ashford there are more than enough bedrooms for everyone – it’s just they are disproportionately spread amongst the population, with some better-off and more mature households living in large Ashford homes with many spare bedrooms, and some younger Ashford families being over crowded.

Yet it is not the fault of these well-off mature residents that this is the current situation. Let’s be frank, Ashford doesn’t have enough housing full stop otherwise we wouldn’t have the large Council House waiting list and all the younger generations renting instead of buying, but up until now it hasn’t been clear that Ashford actually also has the wrong types of properties.

We’re not building the smaller homes in Ashford that are needed as starter homes and we aren’t building enough bungalows for older generations, so they can be released from their larger Ashford homes, thus allowing those growing Ashford families to move up the ladder.

Looking at the stats for Ashford, and TN25 in particular…

When I compared Ashford (TN25) with the regional stats of the TN postcode, the area has proportionally 64.3% more detached homes, yet 77.4% less apartments. Looking nationally, Ashford (TN25) has proportionally 131.9% more detached homes and proportionally 78.1% less apartments.

I am finding that there has been a shortage of smaller townhouses and smaller apartments being built in Ashford over the last 20 years, because most of the new builds in the last couple of decades seem to have been either large executive houses or apartments of the larger, and more upmarket variety, even though demand for new households has tended towards lower to middle sized households.

The builders do want to build, but there’s a deficiency of building land in Ashford, and if there’s a shortage of building land, then of course new homes builders will build whatever maximises profit – the biggest and most expensive properties and certainly not bungalows as they take up too much land. So who can blame them?

Yet would it surprise you to know that it’s not a lack of space, it’s the planning system. Green belts must be observed, but only 1.2% (yes just 1.2%) is built on in this country as a whole with homes – we need the planners to release more land (and then either force or encourage builders to build on it – not simply sit on it). Another issue is that of the smaller new homes that have been built, most have been snapped up by Buy to Let investors.

So, what’s the answer? Build more Council houses? Yes, sounds great but the local authority haven’t enough money even to properly cut the grass verges, let alone spend billions on new homes in Ashford. The Government did relax planning laws a few years ago, for example for changing office space into residential use, yet they could do far more as, currently, developers have no incentive to build the inexpensive homes or bungalows that the system needs,

So, what does this mean for Ashford’s homeowners and landlords?

Changing the dynamics of the Ashford, regional and national property market to any meaningful degree will take decades, not years. The simple fact is we are all living longer, and we need 240,000 to 250,000 houses a year simply to stand still with demand, let alone start to eat into 30 years of under-building where the average has been just under 170,000 households a year.

That means, today as a country, we have a pent-up demand for 2.25m additional households and we will need to build a further 4.2m households on top of that figure for anticipated population growth between 2019 and 2039. So, irrespective of whether we have short term blip in the property market in the next 12/18 months, investing in property is, and will always be, a great investment as demand will always outstrip supply.