Board members of Bexley Council’s commercial housing company are confident local demand for homes will help ease the potential impact of a coronavirus-induced property downturn, councillors have heard.

Graham Ward and Michael Hill, who both sit on the board of the authority’s wholly-owned firm BexleyCo, provided the update at what was the council’s first cabinet committee to be held remotely.

Addressing councillors, Mr Hill said while nailing down the exact impact Covid-19 would have on the property market was difficult, projections so far point towards a “likely” fall in sales prices between a “mild” five per cent and a “severe” 15 per cent.

Based on the projections, the company was budgeting for a 10 per cent fall in house prices in 2020.

This would see development profits at its Old Farm Park site – the first development undertaken by the company, consisting of 58 homes currently in construction at Sidcup – fall from £3.825m to £1.594m.

However Mr Hill, the chairman of BexleyCo, said there were “some positives” amid the potential impacts of the pandemic.

Reasons for optimism, he said, included Bexley and London’s continued housing supply shortage meant demand would remain high, combined with a steady availability of mortgages, unlike in the 2008 credit crunch.

Interim managing director Graham Ward added they were “still confident Old Farm Place will deliver significant positive returns to the council”.

He said BexleyCo were still receiving expressions of interest from local buyers as late as March and April amid the pandemic. Old Farm Park has specifically been targeted towards buyers within the borough of Bexley.

The firm would also explore “phasing development” to see if the more affordable homes on the site could be built first.

Answering a question on whether BexleyCo would consider leasing the homes, Mr Ward said although they were confident in the “strong interest” shown from buyers already, they “wouldn’t rule any situation out”.

Construction on another BexleyCo plan, Lesney Park – which was granted planning permission earlier this year in a project which will see Hainault aged care home demolished to make way for 25 new homes, including eight supported living units –  would be pushed back until 2021, with housing at the site not available until 2022.

The firm also told councillors of plans to briefly pause planning work on other proposed developments at Felixstowe Road and Walnut Tree Depot – with Cllr David Lead agreeing it was “absolutely right in the circumstances” to “hold tight”

While Bexley already live-streams a number of its meetings for public viewing, the May 5 meeting of cabinet was the first time that members have signed in remotely from their homes.

The system largely went off without issue, a welcome development with remote meetings likely to become the norm for authorities in the immediate future.