There Is Now A Tool To Measure How Housing Impacts Us Socially

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by KnowESG
Image of apartment block: dense urban social residential design with greenery

Syntrus Achmea, a Dutch real estate investor, in collaboration with Springco, has created a tool that looks at the impact that residential buildings or complexes have on people living within them or in the surrounding area. How this tool works is that it considers the following five aspects in relation to housing:

  • The house

  • Its residents

  • Local amenities

  • Resident attachment to the home

  • The environment

Each of those five factors are measured through a variety of open source data. Notably, the tool pulls from sources like the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the BAG (a basic registration system for addresses and buildings), OpenStreetMap and the National Tree Register. All of this information is combined with property data that Syntrus Achmea manages.

As a one of a kind right now, the tool measures social impact on a 0 to 1 scale. It also labels properties into three categories for easy interpretation. Properties can be labeled as either limited, medium or high social impact.

So What Makes A Great Place To Live In?

In terms of impact, people want to be in a place that has a high social impact of course, but quantifying this isn't so straightforward. Generally speaking, the best place to live right now has a combination of livability and affordability.

These are soft factors in urban development and we can see that today, economic downturns have exerted harder factors, with renting prices rising all around the world. Western countries have been significantly affected, with Canada feeling the pinch and eviction rates in the US rising during the pandemic and well after it. Globally, this is a growing concern.

As such, these once soft factors are now major considerations - or hard factors - in the public eye. And the beauty of this tool is that it quantifies those factors into its measurement of urban development.

Translating that to social impact is figuring out key questions such as what do people want in a house? What do people generally want in a place for them to live? This tool takes a broad overview of this and presents answers to those questions.

Defining Liveability 

It tells us that according to this tool, social impact is all about what the people living in these locations want. Affordability is one factor, along with liveability. Improving these areas means empowering the people around and in that area. It also helps us to better connect to what others want in terms of new developments and we can make better decisions on what’s best for a building.

However, the people at Syntrus Achmea and Springco have expanded what social impact means, since their tool measures more than the just price of the home and the location. It encompasses other human needs such as what’s around the area that can enrich people’s lives. Things like public parks, schools, botanical gardens, walking trails and many other public goods could in theory contribute to social impact based on this tool. This is on top of quality amenities, good lighting, proper air circulation and ventilation, and more.

A Solid Example For Real Estate

In several countries - particularly in the West - there are many issues with the real estate market. And the concerns from tenants and potential homeowners in these areas are absolutely valid. It’s for this reason this particular tool stands to be so helpful for the real estate market as a whole.

Through its evaluations real estate companies can get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t for both prospective and current buildings. Overall, this tool will add predictive value.

Defining Social

The only problem with this tool is that to measure the real social impact of new buildings, it’ll take many years of data acquisition to develop a more concrete definition. But at the very least, this is the first noticeable attempt at forming a better picture of how real estate developments and current buildings can affect inhabitants and the people around the area.

Because it’s so crucial, Syntrus Achmea has opened this tool to other investors and developers. Through constant input, the tool can be refined over the next few years and be used for other real estate projects beyond housing. Read more on the Syntrus Achmea approach to ESG via their ESG Strategy and Update Report here.

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