So the Code For Sustainable Homes is with us. Mild (and some not so mild panic) is setting in amongst many housebuilders and the sustainability consultant industry can barely keep up. It seems pretty clear that design quality is going to give way and you can bet that landscape and public realm spending will be the first to be scaled back to fund all those solar panels, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines. But maybe it doesn’t matter because if we log onto resident forums on new developments up and down the country its pretty clear that the bain of most residents on new build estates is not what you would expect, build quality and snagging, but an elusive or non existent management company. Non existent that is, apart from the demands and court order threats for non payment of the £100 or so quarterly “management fees” that residents are withholding because their litter rarely gets picked up and the weeds are rarely suppressed. Housebuilders hold their hands up and say its nothing to do with them (they have happily washed their hands of another element of placemaking, in their rush to get away), but continue to damage any brand value they might have garnered (and in most cases that’s little or none) owing to residents being convinced that management companies are owned by the housebuilder.
Learning from the 60’s and 70’s, the industry believed that by taking landscape and public realm management away from councils who couldn’t be relied on not to expropriate allocated funds to another needy public service, and to place the duty in the hands of private companies, would result in our estates remaining prim, proper and verdant. This supposition would be correct if management companies were not crooks. After experiencing the frustration first hand of having a development my company is intimately involved in being let down terribly by its management company, I decided to find out a bit about this management company and their industry. In short the industry is a licence to print money with obscene profit margins which make recent housebuilder margins seem meagre. It has made us at HemingwayDesign seriously consider setting up a management company in the knowledge that you could be satisfied with margins one third of what many in the Management Company industry achieve.
Its pretty obvious that good upkeep of areas lead to them being cherished by the residents, which in turn leads to buoyant land prices, which ultimately results in longevity. The past decades are testament to poor management resulting in the need for costly regeneration. All the welcome carbon savings that will stem from the Code for Sustainable Homes could well be negated and outweighed by the building and knocking down of our estates after 25 or 30 years unless we get to grips with this Management Company scandal.