London’s most family-friendly areas: Bromley, Barnet and Greenwich have new homes with child-friendly amenities and fast commutes
Bromley has been crowned the childhood capital of London with swathes of open space, the most sports facilities and plenty of good schools, according to new analysis published today.
In a city where family homes are in short supply, the most southeastern borough has such homes available and a house price-to-income ratio of 10.8, half the cost of buying in Westminster.
The average house price in Bromley is £425,082, lower than the London average of £457,471.
Bromley topped property company CBRE’s ranking of the 10 most family-friendly boroughs — ahead, in order, of Richmond, Barnet, Enfield, Croydon, Westminster, Hillingdon, Redbridge, Hounslow and Greenwich.
But finding the right spot to raise a family is about far more than an extra bedroom and a garden.
Building new family homes in London
Under pressure to deliver high volumes of homes to address the affordable housing crisis, developers and councils have prioritised building flats since the mid-Noughties, creating a critical shortage of family-sized homes in the capital.
Only 7,000 to 9,000 homes with three, four or more bedrooms were built last year in Greater London, well short of the 19,000 that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment recommends.
“This is a higher number than a decade ago but a smaller proportion of housing stock,” says Richard Brown of the Centre for London.
The combination of a lack of family homes and stretched affordability continues to push people out of the capital in search of space and value.
But a drive to build bigger homes, create child-centric neighbourhoods and keep young families in the London is gathering pace.
“Public bodies, such as the Greater London Authority and Network Rail, are teaming up with developers to create large sites out of adjacent plots that are under different ownership,” explains Lawrence Bowles of Savills.
“Mansion block-style housing would work on such land as an efficient way of delivering lots of family-sized homes.”
The Mayor’s affordable housing policy states: “Priority should be accorded to provision of affordable family housing,” which is slowly dripping down into local council plans.
The new urban plan for the City of Westminster, for example, pledges to deliver family homes for the squeezed middle and ban more new-build mansions.
Living in Bromley: London’s most family-friendly borough
Bromley has more than 86,000sq ft of open space which makes up nearly 60 per cent of the borough. It borders the Kentish countryside yet has fast links into the City and Victoria.
“It’s a case of city-meets-country. One of the main considerations for working parents is a convenient commute, and Bromley has 26 railway stations, bringing central London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex all within easy reach,” says Jennet Siebrits, head of residential research at CBRE.
Prices from £380,000: new three-bedroom homes at St Mark’s Square in top-ranking Bromley
“It’s not just the schools. The area is packed with amenities that make family life more manageable, including 954 sports facilities and one of the highest proportions of parks in London,” she adds.
Property prices there have risen 26 per cent over the last five years and are forecast to rise steadily by eight per cent over the next five years.
Sam Samuel, of estate agents Edward Ashdale, says: “We have seen good growth over the last few years although, like all areas, we hit a wall in July due to uncertainty. The homes that are selling are well-presented or lower than market value.”
The agent has a three-bedroom, two-bathroom period property in Bromley on its books for £575,000.
New three-bedroom homes are for sale in St Mark’s Square, the 200-unit scheme near Bromley South station. There will also be a Vue cinema, nine restaurants and a hotel, all around a new public square. From £380,000. Call CBRE on 020 7182 2000.
Living in Barnet: thousands of new family homes
Due to its high proportion of formerly industrial land, the north London borough of Barnet is the location of several vast new schemes with homes designed for families.
According to the CBRE study the district is the third most family-friendly borough with an average house price of £481,821 and a house price-to-income ratio of 13.7.
Property values in Barnet have grown by 14 per cent over the last five years and are forecast to rise by 12 per cent in the next five years.
This month Redrow launched a selection of townhouses, called The Villas, in the Family Quarter of Colindale Gardens. The Villas are spread over three floors and each has a garden.
These homes are available with Help to Buy, with prices starting from £595,000. Call 020 3811 6580 for more information.
Colindale Gardens, once complete, will be home to 6,000 people with restaurants, shops and a three-form entry primary school.
The four-acre park and woodlands are due to open this autumn. Meanwhile, Millbrook Park, a former Army barracks covering 11 acres, is now being transformed into a 2,240-home community. Joseph Homes is building three- and four-bedroom townhouses as part of the scheme, each with an integrated garage and garden.
On the doorstep is a range of sports facilities: Bittacy Hill Park tennis courts, Frith Manor Equestrian Centre and Mill Hill Village Cricket Club. It’s two miles from the refurbished Allianz Park, home to the Saracens Rugby Club.
“We’ll stay 10 years”: Deepali and Gunjan Jain and baby (Barratt London)
Management consultant Gunjan Jain, aged 30, and his 28-year-old wife Deepali, who works for Baroda Bank, were renting a one-bedroom apartment in Barnet but wanted to get on the ladder and upsize.
The couple, who have a young baby, stayed in Barnet and chose a two-bedroom home using Help to Buy in Barratt’s Hendon Waterside.
The flat cost £535,000 and they put down a £27,000 deposit. Their mortgage repayments of £900 per month are less than they were paying in rent.
“Hendon Waterside has everything we need as a family,” says Gunjan. “We intend to stay here for at least the next five to 10 years.
“We may have to upsize if our family extends, but we hope to buy a larger apartment within the same development.”
Prices at Hendon Waterside start from £369,000. Call 0333 9200 938 for details.
Living in Greenwich: car-free space to play
Although amenities on the doorstep are a vital component when choosing the right neighbourhood, the immediate environment should be designed with families in mind.
Architect Dinah Bornat says developers must consult local schoolchildren when planning new schemes.
“A quarter of London’s population are under 18 yet children are largely underrepresented in urban development policy and practice,” she writes in the The Developer magazine.
Children’s needs are often misunderstood and when it comes to playing, they need to be able to meander, albeit overlooked by dwellings, in a car-free space, Bornat continues.
When planning Kidbrooke Village in Greenwich, Berkeley Homes put child’s play at the centre of its plans.
The scheme is being woven into 140 acres of parkland in a partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, with different playgrounds for different ages.
There’s a natural wildlife trail designed for under-fives, along with areas offering more challenging, upcycled equipment including timber and rope bridges, for five- to 11-year-olds.
There’s a handful of two- and three-bedroom apartments left in Birch House starting from £592,000. Call 020 8150 5151.
Parenthood brings with it the need to make tough decisions and for Londoners, to stay or move out is one of the more common dilemmas.
It’s up to developers, planners and politicians to design child-centric schemes to keep families growing up in the capital.