The concept of what are being called 20 minute neighbourhoods has been around for a while now. But recent issues (not in the least Covid) have brought the idea more in focus. Here we will look at what a 20 minute neighbourhood is and at the implications for the property market.

A 20 minute neighbourhood – which could be in a city, town, village or a suburb – is essentially a place where residents’ daily requirements can all be met within a 20 minute journey. In other words work, shopping, health care and leisure are all available within 20 minutes.

Ideally, so many enthusiasts of the 20 minute neighbourhood say, that 20 minutes should relate to a journey by walking or cycling if possible.

Twenty minute neighbourhoods are sometimes known as 15 minute neighbourhoods, but the principle is the same.

Think about it for a moment and it will be apparent that, currently, the vast majority of people do not live in 20 minute neighbourhoods. Journeys to work and schools can consume many hours every day. Even journeys to buy something as fundamental as food are not straightforward for many people.

It’s also very easy to see what the benefits and attractions of living in a 20 minute neighbourhood would be for many people. For example:

* Less time spent travelling. More time doing other things such as leisure – or even working, leading to better productivity and higher incomes.

* Less money spent on travelling. Savings on car purchase, fuel, parking, season tickets etc. More money to spend on other things, such as leisure time or even housing.

* Less stress and better mental health from a reduced need to ‘be somewhere’ quickly.

* Environmental benefits through reduced emissions from travel.

In fact, you could say who would NOT be interested in living in a 20 minute neighbourhood if they were available? They could potentially be VERY popular. (Although it’s fair to say most people have not even heard of the concept as yet.)

Now let’s look at the impact on the property market if the concept was to be widely adopted:

The 20 minute neighbourhood concept requires a complete rethink of the way things have been done for decades. It would need a rethink of issues such as planning, development, housebuilding, infrastructure, business location, property investment and even estate and letting agency.

* Many current and planned residential and commercial developments are completely at odds with the 20 minute neighbourhood concept. Many have no local amenities and are largely car dependent etc.

* Existing residential and commercial locations which fit or can be adapted to the 20 minute concept may be better for purchase, investment, sales and lettings.

* Existing residential and commercial locations with no 20 minute potential may be harder to sell or let in future.

* Homes with working from home potential may become more sought after. Working from home or WFH is a great fit with the 20 minute concept. Covid has served to underline the benefits.

* Mixed use developments, where residential sits alongside commercial and other uses, could become much more attractive in future.

* There could be a move towards new developments which already have the 20 minute concept ‘baked in’. These will need to be compact, connected mixed use developments. There will need to be good active transport networks, while long distance travel options will be less important. They will need to offer community amenities and green space. There will likely need to be a strong element of placemaking to make these new types of communities attractive to residents.

* There could be interest in repurposing redundant retail space to make some existing towns and cities fit the 20 minute model.

So could this happen? Will 20 minute neighbourhoods be the places to live, to buy and to rent in future?

So far it is very early days at least in the UK.

The 20 minute neighbourhood is well entrenched in Portland, Oregon, USA – the city sometimes credited with creating it.

Melbourne, Australia, incorporated it into their Plan Melbourne in 2017.

The Scottish Government has recently allocated funding to begin to support the development of the 20 minute neighbourhoods concept.

Birmingham’s Our Future City Plan embraces the concept. The plan is still just a plan however.

The Brent Cross Town development in north London is very much based upon the 15 minute town concept. It could be the first such scheme to actually be completed on the ground in the UK.

In truth, it’s probably quite difficult to decide if, how and when 20 minute neighbourhoods will take off in the UK. They are something everyone in property ought to keep in mind however.


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