Sunday 29 November, 2020

Developers explore tweaking house designs to meet post COVID-19 needs

Real estate investment and development company, Proven REIT is going back to the drawing board with its building plans in an attempt to capture what may become new norms for the real estate industry post-COVID-19.

As the world grapples with the outbreak of the coronavirus, many businesses have either closed or scaled-down operations to curtail the spread of the deadly disease.

Accordingly, construction sectors globally have not been spared from the downturn in economic activities and have sought to adjust to the new realities with overtime work, or in worst cases, a pushback on construction timelines.

But the latter could impact return on investment for these developers who often receive financing on housing developments upward of 50 units.

Proven REIT, which is a subsidiary of Proven Investments Limited, is brainstorming ideas on how to stem any potential loss the company could suffer from the COVID-19 outbreak and the restrictions that it brings.

“Many of our developments are in the design/approval phases and this gives us an opportunity to tailor the offering to what we believe will be some new requirements for how persons will view and use real estate in the future,” Aisha Campbell, CEO of PREIT told Loop News.

Aisha Campbell, CEO of Proven REIT

The company anticipates that the post-COVID-19 era may see the emergence of a focus on building technologies that promote sustainability, safety and remote collaboration as more people shift from large brick and mortar offices to working from home.

“Additionally the distribution of demand for residential real estate in different price ranges will most likely shift post this epidemic,” Campbell said.

It’s not clear if the Proven has already started adjusting its plans to meet any new demands that will surface in the real estate market after COVID-19. But for now, it continues to navigate the dynamic and unprecedented situation of the pandemic, by prioritizing the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers.

“Specifically at our construction sites we have introduced new safety protocols to comply with governmental agency requirements to include the installing of new infrastructure such as hand/face wash stations; acquiring key disposable gloves, masks for our staff and temperature checks before entering the sites,” the company said.

Proven REIT isn’t the only company taking precautions.

Housing developer, West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON) says it has also been closely monitoring the developments around the COVID-19 and are guided by the Government directives.

“The management team meets on weekly basis both at the company and ICD Group level to assess the impact on our staff and the company, as well as to discuss mitigation measures,” the company told Loop News.


Artist's impression of WIHCON's development set for Harbour View, Kingston. Photo via West Indies Home Contractors Limited, Facebok.

In adhering to the social distancing directives, WIHCON noted that on April 15, 2020, it closed one construction site in St Catherine in response to the GOJ’s seven-day lockdown of the parish.

All other construction sites of the company continue to operate but those deadlines for completion are now subject to review.

Its most recent development is the construction of 72 two-bedroom townhouse units at Seascape, Harbour View in Kingston.

Site clearance of the property [including the demolition of existing structures] has been completed to date and infrastructure works is scheduled to commence in May 2020. The construction duration was estimated to last for 10 months to a year.

 “We are reviewing the completion timelines for all our projects. However, we are unable to give specifics at this time, as the situation is ever-changing each day. The projects have been impacted by shorter work hours arising from curfews, slower response times by some suppliers who are operating with reduced staff, and most recently there has been a reduction in staff due to the lockdown in St Catherine,” WIHCON said.

Gore Developments has been working the weekends to meet handing over deadlines. Developments underway are based in Montego Bay, St James and Greater Portmore, St Catherine.

“Montego Bay is still working on schedule. The way we build we have small crews usually three to four people, that work alternating specifics, so we pour the structure with a small crew than that crew moves on to pour another structure. Another crew comes in to do interior walls then a different crew does the finishing windows and doors etc,” Gore explained.

Artist's impression of the Montego West Village being constructed by Gore Developments. Photo via the company's website.

Over at Proven REIT, concerns are now around preserving the value of its real estate developments, given the fact that some tenants will be facing cash flow pressures and the inevitable decrease in sales volumes as a result of the economic impact on individuals and businesses.

Proven has recently completed and handed over another joint venture development with Matalon Homes, GIAU at 25-27 Millsborough, while construction at the VIA at Braemar development is underway.

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The final decision around timelines for other projects in its portfolio is dependent on numerous elements including guidelines put in place by the government.

"The big unknown for all players in the market remains how long this will take? The most likely scenario is supported by current IMF projections being that economic activities in major developed countries will restart in the last quarter of this calendar year and some growth/recovery projected for Jamaica in 2021," Campbell said.



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