Dubai skyline
Developers worldwide are absorbing the lessons from the pandemic. Flexibility in design is the main theme. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Apart from a handful, developers in Dubai slowed down on project activity since March after the pandemic effect started to show up in force. They are not alone.

This was the same experience for six out of 10 developers worldwide, according to a new report by Knight Frank. The COVID-19 forced developers to go in for a “wholesale rethink of how and where people want to live”.

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Being flexible is the new mantra developers swear by. The need is for “versatile space” that can help out with agile working as well as allow for a separation of home life.

This will start showing up immediately – four out of every ten developers polled said they would make design changes to their projects that were considered as complete.

“While developers will likely temper their urge to radically reshape development designs initially, our survey confirms a desire to consider potential COVID-19 inspired changes,” says the report. “For example, many are considering including more advanced telecommunications and storage facilities for bicycles to accommodate a change in lifestyle.”

More than 160 developers in 22 countries were polled by the UK consultancy between July and August. “While it is still too early to confirm the lasting impact of the pandemic on the development landscape, it is clear that it has accelerated pre-existing trends and prompted new ideas for current and future developments.

“A pause for reflection amid a crisis is to be expected, but the scale of the current hiatus is surprising and could prompt policymakers to consider incentives to spur development.”

According to Flora Harley, Associate at Knight Frank, “According to our survey respondents, funding is the biggest barrier to global development, with just under a third citing it as their biggest concern. Some markets have seen a reduced number of lending facilities offered to developers.

“At the moment there is decreased bank appetite for developer lending and in some markets the pre-sales requirements make it hard to begin construction. One way for governments to spur construction would be to facilitate lending, perhaps through a combination of guarantees or loans. This would crucially remove one of the biggest hurdles in development and enable ground to be broken.”

Developer trends
* Given widespread travel restrictions and concerns, two in five developers say they are be more likely to be
sensitive to the requirements of domestic buyers/investors.
* While 41 per cent of developers polled said they would be looking to develop across cities, second home and rural locations, 45 per cent said they were more likely to focus on cities.
* Almost six in ten have delayed projects and almost half of these are making modifications. With supply
constrained, the implications are significant.
* A third of global developers are considering adjusting the mix of residential and commercial elements in schemes. This will take the form of rentable desk space and individual pods to business suites.
* Developers are seeking to support more active lifestyles. Some 38 per cent are more likely to consider
facilities for bicycles, compared to only 17 per cent that are more likely to consider parking space availability.
* With work-from-home well and truly embedded, developers’ plans to give more consideration to connectivity and usable workspace.