Dalston: the new property hotspot?

Hip east London has supposedly been on the up for years. Now new transport links may give it the edge. Sophie Morris reports

Wednesday 24 June 2009 00:00 BST
(Building Exploratory)

Prince Harry and his entourage have been spotted straying from their usual Chelsea haunts recently for a night out in – gasp – east London. Devotees of east London, known for a hipster rather than regal vibe, no doubt wish these toffs would stick to their side of the tracks. Other recent arrivals are more welcome though: new train stations in Dalston, Hoxton and Shoreditch are set, from next year, to greatly improve the transport links for the area, which stretches north from Shoreditch and up through Dalston to Stoke Newington, in time for the Olympics.

This patch of Hackney and Islington can currently only be reached by buses and the temperamental and infrequent overland train which runs between Richmond and Stratford. The new stations will be on the East London line, running south through Hoxton and Liverpool Street to Canada Water for a speedy link on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf, and, eventually, north up to Canonbury and Highbury and Islington station.

The area's already full of young professionals and young families priced out of north London, but its relative isolation, despite geographically being quite close to central London, means that Dalston and the surrounding area has so far resisted wholesale gentrification. So on Kingsland Road a woman sits in the window of her shop-cum-café, beating dough into small rounds for frying and eating warm. Then turn the corner a few yards down and there's a hippie-ish, but very nouveau, squat offering French language classes.

Despite the improving transport links this might not seem to be the right time to buy, but developers – predicting increased interest as soon as the tube opens up – are busy building 850 new homes. Three projects, all minutes from the new Dalston Junction station, are under construction by Barratt Developments, United House Developments and Telford Homes. And despite the current state of the market they are all reporting considerable interest in the new builds . Several new developments of student housing are also poised to welcome the flood of foreign students it is predicted will hit London this summer, their passage eased by favourable exchange rates.

Barratt is developing a five-acre plot with the London Development Agency offering one to three bedroom flats from £270,000. The idea is to create a welcoming pedestrian area that will draw in high street names and get Dalston's new arrivals spending their money locally.

The Telford Homes development, Kinetica, has already sold 60 per cent of its one, two and three-bed apartments. The remaining properties start at £260,000 for a one bed rising to £415,000 for a three bedroom flat. Telford are selling the development on their ecological and social credentials. The building has a brown roof designed to attract native birds, a vertical wind turbine running up from the sixth to the 13th floor, a green planted roof area and a roof terrace with children's play area.

Alongside the private apartments are units for the Metropolitan Housing Trust, which finds housing for those in need, referred by the council.

United House Developments has also sold 60 percent of the first phase of its four storey development, which incorporates some decent ground level green patches into the site for a project in such a built up area. The cheapest two bed available is £335,000, rising to £615,000 for a four bedroom property.

Also not too far away is the Olympic Park in Stratford where an estimated 10,000 homes are planned over the next 20 years. Back in the Hackney area, UNITE, which builds upmarket private student flats, is busy finishing off Newington Court in Stoke Newington and Blithehale Court in Bethnal Green to feed the rush to east London.

If you prefer traditional housing though, look to the neighbouring streets. Where a one bedroom flat will cost from around £200,000. While local conservation groups have also fought hard to protect the area's historic features and a number of Georgian houses still remain on the Dalston Square site.

East End life 'In summer, Dalston feels like Africa or Turkey'

Emma Longfield, 29, and her husband, Ben, live five minutes' walk from the site of the new Dalston station

"We bought a four-bedroom Victorian house on a street in Dalston on the Stoke Newington border last May. It cost us £500,000 and needs some work doing – mostly redecorating, as the house had been rented for years. We always loved the area. It feels like a mix of people and of worlds. You can walk down Kingsland Road in summer and feel like you are somewhere in Africa or Turkey. There are great bars, clubs and theatres, too. It has that great mix between still being part of the fun 'let's go out and have a great time' London and a real family-friendly side with London Fields and the lido and countless mum and baby groups all around you, which was key for us as we wanted to start a family – and now we're having twins.

The new transport links were definitely a factor in us buying the house. We stretched ourselves to the limit to get the mortgage, hoping that the new transport connections would offer us some protection in a property price slump. It's possible that what we paid for the house reflects the new transport links already, but the most important thing for us is that we've got a home in an area we love and feel happy to bring kids up in. The new links will make a dramatic difference to our lives as we'll be able to go to see our friends in other parts of London much more easily and we won't have to rely on buses quite so much."

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