This remarkable turnaround is due mainly to a change in planning priorities, aimed at reversing the exodus of families from the capital and promoting more balanced communities, according to industry analyst Molior.
Developers have had to fall in line and to their delight have discovered huge, unsatisfied demand for well-designed houses in well-connected parts of town. Housing associations are boosting the numbers, too, making new houses available on a cheaper, shared-ownership basis.
All this is particularly welcome news for young couples planning to have children and who might otherwise have fled to commuter land.
From £999,000: Notting Hill Housing Trust is building four-bedroom houses at The Exchange in Bermondsey
Designed for lifestyle
Modern lifestyles are shaping the design of this new generation of houses, marking a decisive shift away from the traditional idea of the house as a box with rigidly defined rooms for sleeping, eating and relaxing.
Glamorous and aspirational new homes of contemporary design are often surprisingly affordable because they are built on run-down plots in gritty, inner-city neighbourhoods that family buyers are helping to revitalise by clamouring for better schools, libraries, parks and shops.
Whether opting for a boldly architectural house or a Victorian or Georgian lookalike, most buyers want their new property to have exciting design elements, and to chime with the way they live. Often this boils down to homes with light-filled, open-plan interiors - especially a kitchen-cum-family hub space - manageable gardens, roof terraces and bedrooms with luxury en suite bathrooms.
The wish list might also extend to audiovisual treats such as a home cinema and iPod docks, and “green” features - perhaps solar heating or rainwater collection. Developers now take all of these desires much more seriously than they used to.
Many older period houses are tall and narrow and lack good-quality living space. Formal drawing rooms tend to be for special occasions, not everyday use, and are therefore wasteful of space, while the interaction between house and garden is poor. “A lot of families want a house that has the hallmarks of a loft, in open, dramatic and contemporary style. So they are bypassing gentrified terraces in favour of wow-factor new-builds,” says Albert Hill of niche estate agent Modern House.
Replacing a single-storey shed on a tight plot at the junction of three roads and backing on to a railway cutting, a pair of new houses in Holloway shows how good architecture can make the most of a seemingly unpromising urban setting.
Externally, the red-brick façade and steeped pitch roof melds harmoniously with the Victorian surroundings, while the distinctive, double-arched entrance with a “stoop” staircase, an architectural device associated with American houses to encourage people to linger at the threshold, adds to the public life of the street.
Solidspace, the architect-developer, says this reinvention of the London townhouse provokes “a radical rethink of how we measure the value of a property — in volume rather than mere floorspace”. Prices from £1,295,000. Call 020 7704 3504.
While many more such small-scale projects on complex urban plots are needed, council planners are insisting on mega regeneration schemes to create entire new neighbourhoods.
Modern four- and five-bedroom townhouses with private gardens and secure garage parking are part of Lillie Square, the first phase of the giant Earls Court exhibition centre redevelopment.
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Tapestry townhouses in King's Cross start at £2 million
Tapestry is a scheme of sleek, modern houses with double-height space and sky gardens at King’s Cross Central, the transformation of blighted railway land behind the station. Prices from £2 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5499.
From £2.6 million: houses in London Square in Fulham feature basement patio gardens
A new private garden square with 40 Georgian-style townhouses in densely packed Fulham is another arrival. The architecture of the two-acre London Square site, once a stableyard, is inspired by elegant Wellington Square, off King’s Road in Chelsea. At its heart are formal communal gardens overlooked by imposing houses with large front doors and railings.
From £4.25 million: homes at West Village in Notting Hill. Call 020 7318 4677
The West Village, in Notting Hill, brings nine houses priced from £4.25 million. Call Strutt & Parker on 020 7318 4677.
Keeping down the costs
Modern Zone 1 townhouses do not have to cost a fortune, according to Notting Hill Housing trust, which in mid-May launches four-bedroom properties at The Exchange, Bermondsey. Prices from £999,000. Call 020 8357 4444.
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