In Conversation with… Christine Hynes

Christine Hynes

Christine Hynes

There’s a plethora of leading figures in the property, investment, finance and charity sectors who we’re regularly in conversation with, many of whom are guest authors for PRSupdate – and here we share more about them, their roles, priorities and backgrounds. If you would like to feature in this series, or to suggest someone who might, please get in touch through our contact us page or let us know on twitter.

Why not take a lucky dip into our In Conversation archives and discover:

Today we speak with Christine Hynes (Chief Executive of Climate Energy Homes) who is the Featured Article author in our forthcoming November PRSupdate newsletter.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I spent the first half of my career in IT and Training. During that time I worked with CISCO and was responsible for establishing the company throughout Europe.

Around 12 years ago, a search for both a new career and a new home led me to conclude that there was a real opportunity to challenge the way we traditionally build houses in the UK. Ever since then I have sunk my energies into researching and developing the ecoTECH build system and sourcing the best components and delivery partners. The system is exclusive to Climate Energy Homes, which is part of the Climate Energy Group.

For those who may not know, can you briefly explain a little about Climate Energy Homes?

Climate Energy Homes works with affordable housing, private rent and private sale sectors to deliver the ecoTECH build system.

We believe that by changing the way homes are designed and built – making them quicker and more environmentally efficient to construct, without increasing build cost – we can deliver sustainable growth, regeneration, carbon savings and an enhanced quality of life for residents.

For instance, currently Climate Energy Homes is on site in Rainham, building 51 units to passive house standards on behalf of Circle Housing. We are very excited about the scheme as it will be the largest development of affordable homes to passive house standards in the UK.

Once delivered, in addition to calculating the carbon savings associated with the build, over time, we plan to monitor the impact on residents living in a passive house environment. We already know from previous builds that for an average family of four living in a three-bed home built to CfSH4, the annual fuel savings are around £1,000 per year, but there are a number of additional benefits associated with passive housing that we haven’t tracked before.

What involvement does Climate Energy Homes have in the Private Rented Sector?

We work as a development partner to the private rented sector to provide the required levels of services, housing specifications and out-turn costs.

Our view is that long term investors in the private rented sector are looking for both affordability and quality. Climate Energy Homes can tick both boxes so we specifically target the sector. Our rationale is that spacious, well-built and well-insulated homes will prove to be more desirable as energy costs continue to rise – attracting higher yields and delivering lower voids. And from a landlord’s perspective, tenants whose energy bills are significantly lower will have more money available to pay their rent on time!

How does Climate Energy Homes go about making sure they are designing attractive properties that people want to rent long term?

Everyone has the right to a decent home that’s well built, well insulated, and doesn’t cost the earth to heat and power. The same should apply whether people rent or buy, and regardless of whether they are comfortably off or struggling financially.

We can design our homes to cater for both ends of the spectrum. Our aim is always to make them more attractive to potential tenants and cheaper to live in than other local properties. We work with clients’ architects to achieve this, but we’re finding that our pre-designed build choices are becoming increasingly popular with the private rented sector because of the associated cost savings, the speed of build, and the almost infinite options for exterior facades.

Our aspiration is that, across the board, the demand to rent an ecoTECH home will ultimately drive a rental premium that is more aligned towards a premium ‘style of living’ proposition, rather than being based on the delivery of a 70% saving on energy costs.

What changes have you noticed in the Private Rented Sector?

The sector is undoubtedly centre stage at the moment, although in reality we have been seeing consistent growth for the last ten years or more – particularly from families rather than individuals. Whilst much developer and investor attention has historically been focused on large town or city centre apartment blocks, suburban family homes represent a real opportunity for the sector.

What are your feelings on the levels of red tape surrounding the Private Rented Sector?

I think it will soon become less about red tape and more about regulation and enforcement. It’s no secret that the family renting privately is often getting a raw deal. As institutional investors move in – offering better quality and higher service levels – the authorities will be pressurised into clamping down harder on those who don’t step up to the mark.

What initiatives do you believe the government could implement to help increase the desire for developers to fund Private Rented Sector projects?

I’m not the first to suggest this, but I do agree that if it is to really take off outside the current hotspots, the Private Rental Sector will need some legislative support similar to that offered to the affordable sector. In many other areas it’s a struggle to get the numbers to stack up and provide an acceptable return. Section 106 agreements should be used to explore a mix of alternative tenures, including private rental.

Finally, do you have a favourite London landmark?

For me it has to be environmentally friendly and facilitate sustainable living – and I honestly can’t think of one that stands out at the moment. It used to be the Beddington Zero Energy Development in Hackbridge, but whilst it was undoubtedly ahead of its time and the ethos behind it was absolutely exemplary, sadly it has experienced a number of unfortunate post-development issues.

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