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Spotlight on… Tony Harker

Buying a house for the first time can often be quite daunting. We talk to some of the key players in the property world to get their views on what is happening in the market and how to get on the ladder

Tony has worked in the housing industry for over 13 years – the last 12 years in the affordable homes sector – and currently heads up the Sales and Marketing and Leasehold Sales Service at East Thames. He has sold affordable homes to thousands of first time buyers, who wanted the ability to get a step on to the property ladder, and has been heavily involved in the regeneration of areas such as Shadwell, Colindale, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Ipswich, turning run-down locations into vibrant modern sustainable communities and creating places people want to live. Specialising in regenerating east London and Essex, Tony has witnessed the challenges for first time buyers, particularly within the capital. He is passionate about giving everyone an equal opportunity for homeownership, through schemes such as shared ownership.

How do you identify an area which is being regenerated?
There are usually a few common denominators to identify an area undergoing regeneration. Firstly, upgraded, or newly-established transport connections or businesses is always a good indication of regeneration. Look out for the ripple effect, areas in the next zone from popular hot spots. You might see new business retail outlets opening local shops, or small boutique shops appearing in these areas. Look at Local Authority websites and planning portals, to find out about regeneration masterplans, particularly for disused buildings/wasteland, or low-quality homes in need of major repair. When you notice hoarding beginning to appear, this is a sure sign of future activity from developers. Identifying these areas requires vision as buying early with less facilities available could often improve the growth of your future investment.

What impact does regeneration have on the wider community?
Regeneration projects are not just about building new homes, investment is also placed in schools, community centres, local meeting places, sport and leisure facilities, commercial space, as well as green spaces. This helps to improve the overall community, creating an inclusive neighbourhood for everyone.

In addition, when an area is highlighted as a regeneration hotspot, this creates a knock-on effect and other businesses begin to open up in the area. As a result, employment rates often go up and there are further opportunities for development.

What established regeneration projects do East Thames currently offer?
We have a great track record of working on regeneration sites. In the last decade, east London has seen extensive regeneration and The Ocean Estate in Stepney is one of our established schemes. The £220m programme, in partnership with Tower Hamlets Council, has transformed the deprived estate, with 819 new homes created and 1200 existing council homes refurbished in the first four years. The homes have been built around landscaped courtyards and new community facilities are now available, creating a diverse environment for those living there. In 2017, the latest phase at The Ocean Estate will be available for purchase, offering a range of shared ownership accommodation, so keep your eyes peeled for that. We are also working on New Union Wharf, Chobham Farm, and the Gascoigne Estate in Barking.

Which of East Thames’ new regeneration projects should we look out for?
We are currently working with Barking and Dagenham Council on what will be a major regeneration project at Gascoigne Estate, in Barking. A range of one to four bedroom homes will be available through a mixture of affordable rent, shared ownership and private sale, expected to be ready for purchase by 2018. Our overall masterplan is to also create a primary and secondary school on-site, a community centre and more open green spaces. New Union Wharf in Tower Hamlets is another of our regeneration schemes to look out for. The regeneration is taking place on a tired, 1970s estate, replacing this with 399 modern homes, also expected for sale in 2018.

Tell us a little bit about East Thames
Following our merger with L&Q, we are now the largest provider of affordable homes in the country and have ambitious plans for the future. Our vision is to deliver 100,000 new homes in east London and Essex, with over half of these being genuinely affordable to people on average and lower incomes. As a housing association, we also provide support services, for example, we offer care as well as employment and training programmes to our residents. Regeneration is a major part of our work, redeveloping those areas of London that just need a little more love and attention in order to reach their full potential!

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