Business news

Call for Executive to provide clarity on when housing market can reopen

A survey among housing professionals found that 80 per cent reported people pulling out of transactions since the start of the lockdown.
Ryan McAleer

THE Executive must provide clarity on when the house buying and selling process can restart, the professional body representing the north’s estate agents has said.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) made the call on Thursday as a new report revealed that the UK housing market effectively closed for business in April.

A survey among UK housing professionals found that 80 per cent reported people pulling out of transactions since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Almost two-thirds said a stamp duty holiday from the UK Government when sales restart would help the market recover through the post-pandemic period.

Policy manager for RICS in Northern Ireland, Dr Patrice Cairns, said the Executive must also fulfil its role, by providing clarity on when inspections and valuations, within clear parameters of public health, can restart.

“The NI Executive now has the opportunity to pave the way for a resilient post Covid-19 recovery,” she said.

“Measures to support scaling up retrofitting of existing homes should be prioritised both as an economic stimulus and as a kick start towards a healthier and greener housing stock for Northern Ireland.

“What the housing market needs first and foremost though is clarity, and an unambiguous signal from the NI Executive that the house buying and selling process, including inspections and valuations within clear parameters of public health, can restart.’’

Meanwhile a report from Belfast-based RMI Architects has concluded that office based organisations will need to make significant adaptations to their workspaces as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The firm said most employers will need to re-evaluate their existing office layouts and many will need to develop new layouts to provide a safe working environment for staff and visitors.

The RMI report said that offices typically provide five to ten square metres per person, with some businesses such as call centres offering less space.

It states that applying two metre social distancing would require densities of ten square metres or more per person.

Managing partner at RMI Architects, Rob Jennings, said: “The prevailing advice is that social distancing is going to be with us for some time.”

He said automated doors, one-way systems and cellular office arrangements could soon become commonplace

“Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is what role staff kitchens, shared dining areas and break-out spaces will have going forward.

“Where up until now these areas have enabled staff to socialise, this now throws up obvious risks in terms of both airborne and surface transmission of Covid-19.”

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