It’s difficult to think of a more important or emotive issue than the safety of people’s homes.
So, it is no wonder that the image of new build homes is being tested by the issue of cladding and questions over values, costs of potential repairs and wrangling over responsibilities between builders, freeholders and leaseholders.
Recent research from the BECG Group’s new Building Safety Unit demonstrates the point. It suggests that 43 per cent of people think the issue of cladding has affected public confidence in new build housing.
Dig deeper into the YouGov survey and it’s clear that the concern is highest in London with 63 per cent seeing the issue as affecting confidence. Older people are more concerned than younger people, which matters as young people will often turn to parents for property advice or help with deposits.
For homes being built today the challenge is to ensure safety is at the heart of building design and construction.
Where repairs have to be carried out on existing buildings, the issues are more complex – and affect every sector, from homeowners to private and social renters. Technically it is challenging to find the right solutions particularly where the fabric of the building needs to be changed. Logistically the work can be intrusive and disruptive for residents.
In this process, communicating well with residents throughout the repair works cannot be an added extra. It has to be integrated into how work is planned and then carried out.
The projects that the Building Safety Unit has completed for a range of clients demonstrate the importance of understanding residents’ concerns and then working with them at every step of the way. It also means being clear and open with a wide stakeholder group who have an interest in the issue.
Good communication has to be more than an occasional letter or meeting. It’s complex and time consuming and involves as much listening as informing, using multiple approaches and establishing trust.
Organisations that do it badly quickly find the issues get more difficult for everyone concerned. But organisations that do it well, and do the right thing, can emerge with their long-term reputation enhanced.