The Power of Positive Regeneration in West London 

Posted 9 May 2019 by Lizzie Leigh

WhatHouse? speaks exclusively to Karen Mensah, Head of Regional Marketing at L&Q North Region...

Karen Mensah, Head of Regional Marketing at L&Q North Region, talks to us about Help To Buy, Shared Ownership and the power of positive regeneration in West London...

As property prices spiral in the Capital, Karen explains how Shared Ownership is the real success story behind affordable home ownership for London buyers, including successful young professionals, friends and families.

Please tell us about the main areas of your responsibility at L&Q North Region.

I oversee the marketing function for the region, covering everything from the brand and proposition of our developments in terms of identity, through to the media strategy, PR and events. Effectively, everything that consumers see and hear about our developments - while ensuring this translates into sales.

What have been the main areas of change in the new build arena during the last few years?

As prices spiral in many areas of London, we’re seeing an increased focus on the delivery of homes for Shared Ownership, which is particularly the case with L&Q.

What’s been interesting is the change in perception and demographic. A few years ago Shared Ownership was perhaps seen as a second tier option – but this is changing. Today, the design, quality and location of the homes is on par with private sale properties and we see interest from a large audience including successful young professionals.

What are the most exciting schemes you are working on in 2019?

We will be launching new phases at Acton Gardens this year - a large scale project in West London between L&Q and Countryside, which when complete will house over 2,800 new residents. While many projects claim to be delivering positive regeneration, Acton Gardens is really doing it - it’s a long term project that is genuinely transforming the area and bringing benefits to the wider community. We are selling shared ownership homes here, which to date have been extremely popular in the early phases – with plenty more to come.

In North West London, we are marketing The Rushgroves - a new scheme of 387 new homes. There’s a mixture of private sale Help to Buy and Shared Ownership available, so it has widespread appeal. This development will come into its own later this year when the communal gardens and commercial space open up.

Do you build homes to appeal to a particular type of buyer?

First-time buyers form the majority of our purchaser profile. The interesting thing here is how the profile has shifted – whereas a few years ago many first-timers were in their mid-20s, they now span mid-late 30s, meaning we see a mixture of older people who are now buying with their partners, friends or families.

Many of your schemes offer Shared Ownership homes, tell us more about how this benefits buyers.

Nationwide statistics report that the average first-time deposit required to buy today is around £33,000, and almost triple this in London. This is an eye watering amount and makes for depressing news all round.

Shared Ownership allows people to get onto the ladder at a fraction of the cost by purchasing a smaller stake in a property, such as 25%, often with a deposit of around £5,000, while paying reduced rent to the housing association for the remaining stake. Over time, buyers can increase their stake, known as ‘staircasing’, up to full ownership. In my view, it is an ideal route to ownership, particularly in London when we have seen years of unsustainable price rises.

Are there other ways that you look after your buyers at L&Q?

In our region we have recently created a customer care team who are on hand to guide purchasers through the purchasing process, from exchange of contracts through to completion and beyond.

Increased customer focus is one of our main strategic objectives for this financial year, so we will continue to refine this to ensure everyone gets the service they deserve.

How is the property market performing in the areas you're working in?

The London market has slowed significantly as is widely reported, however, because most of our schemes are in emerging areas with lower price points, these markets are still moving. On the whole, we are less affected by factors like Brexit than some of the private developers.

How does L&Q work to integrate its schemes with the local communities it builds in?

This is mostly achieved by ensuring we deliver homes that meet the housing needs of the communities where they are built. Throughout the planning process we listen closely to the community to ensure that what we are proposing is suitable. On our larger schemes like Acton Gardens, we are providing a number of amenities such as a new community centre, as well as funding local projects via a special community chest.

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