Housing ‘wish lists’ shift post lockdown

A new study by Ipsos MORI for St Modwen reveals that the experience of living through lockdown has changed people’s ‘wish lists’ for their housing and the areas they live in.  

Nearly half, 49 per cent, say that a fast, reliable internet connection has become more important to them, while the same proportion say the same of proximity to green spaces. And while just 10 per cent of outright owners are dissatisfied with their home overall, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of private renters are.

While one in twelve, 8 per cent, of the public say they moved out of their main residence during lockdown, this rose to 30 per cent for Gen Z adults who are aged 16-24. This was largely motivated by being closer to loved ones, but the inadequacies of where they lived also motivated some movement - 28 per cent of Gen Z rated the property they lived in during lockdown as unsuitable for their needs over that period. While 73 per cent of renters were positive about their accommodation during lockdown, it was 82 per cent of owner-occupiers. Just over a half, 55 per cent, of renters had access to a private garden during lockdown, 32 per cent to a private space to work.

More of the UK public say they would prioritise living in a good quality home over living in an area with a good community spirit – by 43 per cent to 16 per cent – but this preference is more strongly held among younger generations – 59 per cent of Gen Z and 51 per cent of Millennials would prioritise this. They would rather live in city or town centres but quickly shift towards favouring living ‘further out’ if the property on offer is less expensive, bigger or has a garden.

Gen Z and Millennials are much more positive about new build property than Generation X and Baby Boomers, and 35 per cent of Gen Z say they would be interested in living in a co-housing community in principle, compared to 21 per cent of the public as a whole.

The study is based on 2,482 interviews with UK residents aged 16-75, and was carried out online between 19 and 23 June 2020. It involved a booster sample of ‘Generation Z’ (Gen Z) to look in more detail at this group’s attitudes, experiences and priorities.  The study was commissioned by St Modwen, a leading housebuilder and developer of residential communities.

According to the survey, people across the UK are more satisfied with their current home than they are their finances, physical and mental health, and social life. But this varies considerably by tenure; while just 10 per cent of outright owners are dissatisfied with their home, 23 per cent of private renters are.

Twenty eight per cent of Gen Z rate the property they lived in during lockdown as unsuitable for their needs over that period, a sentiment that declines with age/generation.

Renters were much less likely than owner-occupiers to have had access to a private garden during lockdown – 55 per cent against 88 per cent – and also a private space to work – 32 per cent compared to 50 per cent.

Among the public as a whole, 28 per cent are concerned about their ability to pay the rent/their mortgage repayments at the moment, with a similar 30 per cent concerned about affordability in 12 months’ time.

Levels of concern are little changed since summer 2019 but, as then, they are higher among renters at 39 per cent and 40 per cent.

Both internet connection and proximity to green spaces are rated positively by most people thinking about their local area – 70 per cent and 80 per cent.

Safety is paramount across the different generations, but younger generations – Gen Z and Millennials – are relatively more sensitive to cost and commuting time.

In terms of property itself, people are more likely to consider a private garden as important in making somewhere a good home to live – chosen by 59 per cent from a list of 14 features (communal features such as a gym or shared outdoor space bottom with 3 per cent). A garden is, though, relatively less important for Gen Z; chosen by 35 per cent, just above 31 per cent for a fast, reliable internet connection.

There is stronger preference for living away from city or town centres – 49 per cent would choose this over an identical property closer in, with 31 per cent choosing the latter – but there are marked generational differences with younger cohorts favouring being based in cities/towns.

The survey finds a weakening sense that people have equal opportunities to get ahead in the UK – 33 per cent compared to 46 per cent in 2016 and 53 per cent in 2008 – and an enduring belief that housing will be hard to reach; by seven to ten, people agree rather than disagree that today’s young people will have a hard time getting the right kind of housing, even if they work hard and get good jobs.

There remains a strong sense that boosting housing supply is a solution; 60 per cent agree that unless we build a lot more homes we will never solve the country’s housing problems.

The top two reasons renters give for their tenure are they cannot afford to buy or get a mortgage – 46 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. For most, renting is not a tenure of choice; 82 per cent of those renting privately would prefer to own their property.

Most renters say they have no intention to move (20 per cent) or they will continue to rent (49 per cent), however, more than three in ten, 27 per cent, only expect to be renting for the next three years.

Thirty three and 37 miles are, on average, the maximum distances people say they would be prepared to move for more affordable and more suitable housing (excluding those who discount this altogether). It’s higher among Gen Z and Baby Boomers but only by a few miles in each case.

Rob Hudson, Interim CEO of St Modwen, says: “We know that customer needs change all the time which is why we’ve never sat still in terms of creating homes and communities for tomorrow. Covid-19 is undeniably impacting the way we live out our lives and we were keen to hear directly how people’s attitudes, needs and desires have changed in recent months.

“We’ve all been spending more time in our homes and this research shows clear differences between homeowners, first-time-buyers and renters. From light and airy homes to fast internet connections, the wish lists for our homes have already shifted and we only expect this to continue. That’s why we’re making priority to stay on the pulse of what customers and communities want from their homes and public spaces. We’re sticking to our principles of adding plenty of height and light in the houses we build as well as making our homes more adaptable, such as factoring in home workspaces.”

Lewis Hill, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, says: “Our homes provided sanctuary during lockdown, but also presented challenges. Like many other aspects of coronavirus, the young have been hit hard. As housing ‘have-nots’ they were more likely to have had to move during lockdown, and to have experienced inadequate accommodation. More broadly, 39 per cent of renters (of any age) are concerned about affording housing costs now, 40 per cent in a year’s time.

“Financial pressures and the experience of lockdown have not dimmed a preference among Gen Z and Millennials for ownership over renting. Their enthusiasm is reflected in greater pragmatism about the features, type and location of property. They are apparently more open to new builds and new models of housing.

“If the UK is to ‘build back better’ for housing, it needs to cater to a changing context but also, potentially, a changing consumer.”