This week’s continuation of our ongoing series of interviews with some of the UK property industry’s most senior figures looks at a company with a recent branding re-vamp, Network Homes, and poses the questions to sales and marketing director, Lisa Ley.
Hi Lisa, please tell us a little about yourself and your role in Network Homes.
I joined Network three years ago to oversee all sales and marketing activity – and take great pride in helping to deliver a wide range of homes for people at different income brackets, from large scale regeneration projects to homes in bespoke luxury projects - such as the Shared Ownership homes at The Madison, a 53-storey tower adjacent to Canary Wharf, developed by LBS Properties. I am privileged to work with such talented partners, whether developers, architects, interior designers or local authorities.
Prior to Network, my 24-year property career was mostly spent in the private sector.
The company has recently re-branded - what's the basis for that and how does it reflect the company's ambitions?
Network formerly comprised a network (it’s in the name!) of smaller housing associations under a parent group. Unifying into Network Homes gives us a stronger, bolder identity and allows us to be more efficient while also enabling swifter decision-making – which is essential in the highly competitive land market.
It was also important to have a brand that reflects the dynamic and creative ‘can-do’ ethos of the company. The name Network Homes reflects our passion to provide homes for everyone. Our strapline is ‘Good homes make everything possible’, which is what we at Network really believe in. We’re passionate about building good homes so people have the chance to fulfil their aspirations and live the best lives they can.
How does the company's housing association heritage differentiate it from traditional housebuilders?
All profits from Network Homes are reinvested into the business. There are no shareholder profits – every penny goes towards ensuring the delivery of more homes. The majority of our developments comprise diverse communities with numerous types of tenure – and we retain an active role in the management of our schemes long after the keys have been handed over, so we are here for the long term.
We always consider the environment, wider neighbourhood context and of course the provision of outdoor spaces, which all contribute to a successful development. What is interesting and perhaps surprising to some, is that the design, quality and specification we offer is much higher than some of the private developers that I have worked for in the past. This has resulted in us winning nine major national awards in the past 18 months.
You're soon launching a new development in north-west London - what can you tell us about that?
We have just launched Kilburn Quarter, a landmark scheme in Zone 2, NW6, comprising one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments and duplexes, each with a balcony or terrace. The entire scheme is set around an expansive gated, landscaped courtyard – a nod to London’s famous garden squares and parks.
NW6 as an area is vibrant – there are local delis, bookshops and boutiques, cafes and bars on the doorstep, with more popping up as we speak. It’s an increasingly popular area to live, boosted by the wider £600m 10-year regeneration plan led by Brent Council, which is creating a lot of buzz in the area.
Transport links are also excellent - Kilburn Park Underground, Maida Vale Underground and Kilburn High Road Overground stations are all within walking distance of Kilburn Quarter.
London Help to Buy will be available at the scheme, something that we feel very passionately about.
Are time-honoured things like a show apartment and on-site marketing team still important to buyers?
The customer journey is a top priority for us – it’s important for our customers to be able to touch and feel their new home, particularly if they’re first-time buyers. Having a marketing suite and show home provides us with a comfortable environment from which to guide them through the process, allowing us to answer questions and take our time to put them at ease.
The affordability of homes in London is headline news - what are your thoughts on how first-time buyers in particular can be helped to afford a home in the capital?
We are acutely aware that there is a real problem for young people and families to get onto the housing ladder, so we will continue to build homes in the lower-value areas of the capital while actively exploring initiatives we can use to make homeownership accessible. Shared Ownership and Help to Buy have been helpful but the fact is, as a city we desperately need to build more homes.
Build to Rent, which we are becoming increasingly involved with, is going to become vital as we acknowledge that many people will be lifetime renters. It’s imperative that we deliver an environment for these people that doesn’t feel sub-par and more importantly, feels like their own. The key here will be in the facilities provided and the provision of high-quality ongoing management – something we are constantly striving to build upon. We have recently formed an alliance with Stanhope to combine our skills and expertise to deliver such projects.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to London's new mayor, in terms of the housing market?
We are delighted that the Mayor has housing at the top of his agenda; he seems to fully grasp the difficulties for ordinary Londoners to get onto the housing ladder. The major challenge remains the availability and price of land, something that his predecessors also struggled with.
With the obstacle of the referendum out of the way, where do you see the London property market going over the next 6-12 months?
The golden question. If I had a crystal ball that could answer that, I would be selecting my lottery numbers!
Both developers and buyers will look towards fringe locations – offering a similar lifestyle to the favoured postcodes at a smaller price. From Network Homes’ point of view, as a developer of private sale, Shared Ownership, and other sub-market homes, I believe that there will always be a market for our products, especially the sub-market products that we are offering.