The UK lockdown fundamentally changed the way we use our homes. For many, they became the office, the gym and the school. For those with space and money the unexpected change had benefits, but for others it built increased pressure and stress. Will these changes remain, and what might our homes look like in the future? 

Energy Efficiency 

Increased time at home has heightened awareness of the cost of energy. This has been particularly felt by those facing financial struggles38% of people Hubbub polled expressed concern about paying bills. This was especially the case for people from BAME communities and young people, where the levels of concern rose to 45%.  

Improving energy efficiency of existing housing stock must be a priority as it will help the vulnerable, cut carbon emissions and create jobs. The recent government retrofitting announcement is welcome, but the scale needs to be ramped up and there has to be safeguarding to ensure that it doesn’t become a playground for poor workmanship and exploiting the most vulnerable. 

New housing stock must meet higher standards of energy efficiency which will require government to reverse previous policy decisions which have slackened regulations. 

Digital Connectivity 

Hubbub polling revealed that during lockdown, 79% of people used some form of video conferencing facilities such as Zoom, enabling many to work from home and stay in contact with friends and relatives. It also revealed a significant digital divide in the UK, with many lacking internet connection or devices altogether. 

Community Calling is a campaign Hubbub launched with O2 to collect pre-loved smartphones before refurbishing them and redistributing them to vulnerable people in the London borough of Southwark, one of the hardest hit communities in the UK. This campaign generated a stream of heart-rending stories from people unable to educate their children or talk to carers because they lacked any connected devicesThis was at a time when it was revealed that electronic waste has increased by 21% in the last five years.   

Future housing strategies need to remove the digital divide by ensuring all homes have access to high quality internet connectionsHand-in-glove systems are required ensuring that discarded high quality electronic devices are physically and electronically cleaned for redistribution and that households who receive these devices are given the knowledge to use them. Hubbub is proposing that government should invest in 10 pilot centres to test this approach. 

Access to Green Space 

Estate agents have reported that people are placing increased importance on having a garden when looking to moveHubbub polling revealed that during the lockdown people started gardening more and placed greater emphasis on their connection with natureWith increased working from home, it is possible that people will start to seek accommodation that has outdoor space even if it is further from their workplace. 

Living in a property that has a garden is not an option for many and it will become increasingly important for planners and developers to ensure that nearby green space is something everybody has access to.   

Flexibility 

Hubbub polling revealed that people started using their homes in a greater variety of ways. They became a gym, an office and a place for education. The time spent cooking increased and there was a surge in home DIY, with retailers reporting a 42% increase in sales in May. Many people reported that they would like these trends to stick, and in response, home space, fittings and furniture might have to be designed to allow for greater flexibility of use. 

New Social Contracts 

If businesses expect increased working from home, how will corporate policies changeHome working will increase domestic energy and water bills and put the onus on employers to create multiple safe and sustainable working environments instead of just one. How will companies respond to these changing requirementsHubbub has recently started working with KPMG to explore how their policies can evolve to address these new working arrangements. 

Increased home working also has ramifications for other services.  Water companies will face the challenge of getting increased levels of water to houses throughout the day and local authorities may face increased levels of domestic waste. 

Homes of the Future 

Ideally, COVID-19 should force a drastic rethink of our future housing stock. The CBI has called for all oil and gas boilers to be phased out by 2025 to hit carbon targets with a rapid shift to low carbon heating systems which the National Grid has estimated will require the installation of 8 million heat pumpsAlongside this transformation, the energy and water efficiency of homes needs to be radically enhanced.   

Future homes should be resilient to climate shocks, including flash flooding, urban heat and drought. COVID-19 has emphasised the need for digital connectivity and access to green space.   

These significant changes will require imagination and collaboration backed by large levels of investment, rather than continuing with business as usual. Will the UK have sufficient foresight to embrace this massive opportunity and make our homes better for everyone?

What's next?

Our Hubbub Explores series of workshops is over now, and we're using all the conversations, insights and ideas to build a Greenprint of recommendations for the government. We look forward to sharing this with you. Missed one of the workshops? Don't worry! Find all the podcasts and blogs sharing our findings from them below. 

READ INSIGHTS FROM PAST WORKSHOPS