Fraser Wells, Regional Managing Director at Orbit Homes discusses how the housebuilder aims to leave a positive lasting legacy.
As housebuilders, I’m sure we’d all like to think that we’re creating a legacy for future generations. But in reality, a purely build-to-sell approach doesn’t always include a long-term view.
Before joining Orbit Homes, I spent my career working in private housebuilding, both contracting and developing. During that period, I was involved in a number of joint ventures with housing association partners, and this helped to demonstrate the differing priorities for both parties. Ultimately there are different drivers to each model, and that creates tension. A housebuilder is always looking for the best commercial outcomes, often motivated by maximising land potential and sales, whereas a housing association or landlord often has a more long-term view of maintaining standards for customers over a period of many years.
At Orbit, we wear both hats. As Orbit Homes, we build homes in a variety of tenures: for market sale, shared ownership and rental. And, as Orbit Housing Association, we manage 45,000 homes and, unlike a private sector facilities management company or landlord where managing agents may move on from a project within two or three years; we are governed by the housing regulator and we are invested in our communities for the foreseeable future.
One of the key benefits of this building to manage approach is the greater collaboration across our construction and estate management teams, which is enhancing our designs. This collaboration when designing and planning a scheme – where we need to consider the requirements for building a mix of tenures alongside long-term property management factors – can create tension. But, this tension ensures we question decisions from the outset for the benefit of all our customers and take a more holistic approach to our schemes.
For example, we might choose to invest more in landscaping or communal facilities, or increase the percentage of open space on a development if we think it will improve and benefit the local community. Equally, having long-term stewardship provides flexibility to revisit what we’ve delivered and to adapt our services if we think the community’s requirements are changing.
This long-term commitment is important to landowners and planning authorities too – they often want to know who will maintain areas after homes have been built, and we can guarantee that. We’re developing the land, but also maintaining it for the future.
It’s a unique position to be in which makes our sector very appealing to stakeholders and partners. We’re a professional development business which seeks to deliver exceptional schemes, but also to reinvest our profits back into our communities to ensure we provide a positive lasting legacy.