Developers wake up to need for family units with childcare facilities

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The Independent Online

Family accommodation in city centres is becoming a big new opportunity for property investors. Little family accommodation has been built in cities for decades, largely because developers assumed that families were moving wholesale to the country. Now there are signs that families are moving back.

At the same time, the Government is pushing for better childcare facilities to enable women to get back to work and keep their place on the promotion ladder.

Pressure for more childcare places has come as interest has risen in mixed developments, where homes are built above offices and shops. Developers are now keen to have a nursery as well.

Jonathon Woodfield, new homes director at central London estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr, comments: "Family homes have become a rare commodity in central London and this makes them highly sought after as well as providing the purchaser excellent long-term capital growth prospects. Developers are waking up to this shortfall and are providing a new generation of family-friendly developments whose apartments offer an abundance of space and family-friendly facilities."

At the Berkeley Homes Tabard Square development in Borough, south London, some large, three-bedroom family homes are included in the mix and a nursery opened last week by Bright Horizons provides 96 childcare spaces.

The huge redevelopment by St James Homes of a former waste transfer site next to Victoria Station, Grosvenor Waterside, will have a crèche and other family-friendly facilities as well as the more conventional health and fitness suite.

"Grosvenor Waterside is unique in proposing to offer an on-site crèche that will appeal to parents who are trying to balance the pressures of work and good-quality child care, and where better than the doorstep of where you live," says Robin Rixon, marketing director of St James Homes.

Unfortunately, family living will not be cheap for buyers - a two-bed flat costs £635,000 and penthouse prices start at £1.65m.

Flats close to childcare facilities let well even though most of the accommodation in the latest developments is not entirely suitable for families, according to Andrew Webb, lettings manager of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward's Putney Hill office in south London.

"The Riverside West development on Smugglers Way in Wandsworth incorporates shops, a crèche and two day nurseries, creating a community for residents with facilities on their doorstep. Here the nursery facilities are privately run and you do not have to live in the development to use them, but it is seen as a bonus having this facility so close by."

However, the childcare facilities are used more by residents of the older houses in the area - so popular with young families that it has become known as Nappy Valley.

"Most properties are owned by buy-to-let investors and the one-, two- and three-bedroom flats are highly desirable rental properties," says Webb.

"A large amount of interest comes from young professionals who are attracted by the riverside views and contemporary interiors. Meanwhile, young families with small children have the option to leave their child in care on site while they go off to work."

On the Continent childcare has been routinely included in developments for years. Keeping young children occupied is particularly important in holiday complexes where the parents want to get out and do things the kids cannot join in with, such as skiing.

Colliers CRE has two developments in Italy with childcare facilities. At Ca'degli Archie in Venice, golfing parents can leave their offspring at the Children's Club for youngsters up to the age of 12 while they go out for a round. At the Nevesole Ski Resort at Folgarida, while the parents are out on the piste, younger children can stay at the play area in the complex while the older ones can join the children's ski club on the slopes.