'Who knows better what a residential development needs than its residents?'
This question underpins a new venture, CitiNiche, which aims to match people who share common interests and preferences firstly with each other, and also with a design team, to provide them more bespoke housing tailored to their needs.
The website explains:
"With large corporate developers increasingly dominating the property development industry, the range of living choices has become more generic, with little or no consultation of the individual (who ultimately funds construction) in the planning phase. CitiNiche helps you determine your housing, giving you an avenue to voice your ideas, so you can shape your life and the community you live in."
It does this through crowd-sourcing. The website invites people to join 'niches' with others who may have similar preferences, such as space for pets, an emphasis on urban agriculture, larger sized apartments, loft-style living and even an 'empty slate' option where you get simply a shell to customise later. Or, you could start your own niche in whatever strikes your fancy (you could seriously have some fun with this!).
Once you've picked your niche, you can share ideas, which are followed by design teams. When enough group members are on board (though no indication as to how many is 'enough'), they are invited to workshop their ideas together with potential designers. If you're interested in progressing from that point, the cash comes into it - time to pay a 'small' refundable deposit. Only once planning approval is in the bag is when you seriously have to reach into yours and commit.
So the residents get a tailored design solution, and the chance to more meaningfully participate in the design process, and the developers get something too - their market is already there, which reduces part of the risk of the development.
It'll be interesting to see how this gets going over here. I really like the idea of being able to have a say in the kind of housing you want from the design stage - this idea does seem to depart from traditional development theories based on market projections, and I think this will encourage diversity and creativity if it takes off. There's already a site marked out for potential development in the Docklands, so hopefully we can see how it progresses.