Alex Tomášková, CEO of JRD Land and JRD Development expects to see a gradual revival of demand for residential real estate at the turn of this year and next year. She believes that the energy crisis helps clients to be aware of the quality and energy efficiency of the company’s projects. Highlighting the positive in a negative situation, she talked to Property Forum about the Group’s development plans and ESG strategy.
You are currently serving in two positions at JRD as CEO of JRD Land and JRD Development. How do you manage that?
I have started with JRD a year ago as CEO of the Land division and I have been closely cooperating with the Development division. It became logical to combine these two positions into one and make use of useful synergies streaming from both divisions cooperating more closely.
How would you describe your overall experience being a female business leader in an industry that is heavily dominated by men?
Of course, it is quite challenging at times, but I have never considered this as a disadvantage. Quite the opposite. Women can be as ambitious and driven as men and they achieve their goals through teamwork and partnerships.
2023 is set to be a challenging year for residential developers with the ongoing high inflation environment, the energy crisis and weakening demand. What’s your strategy to cope with these challenges?
The strength of our group is that we are diversified. We have several divisions and several lines of business – landbank management, residential development, renewable energy, waste gasification and investment division.
In development, we are currently completing five residential projects, which should be ready in six or nine months. Based on our analysis, we expect a gradual revival of the market towards the end of this year – and we are already seeing optimistic signs of the demand recovering from the last year´s shock. For the upcoming projects, we, of course, evaluate in detail the appropriate strategy for starting sales and construction in relation to the current situation.
However, development is a long-term business and we are not changing any of the long-term or medium-term goals. We plan to expand our share in the resi-to-rent segment, we are preparing so-called “second homes” – holiday apartments projects, and we are developing different segments such as retail or offices. All our projects will be designed in line with our sustainability strategy which JRD had been fulfilling already for many years. Important to say, the energy crisis is helping our clients be aware of the quality and energy efficiency of our projects so there is always something positive in a negative situation.
Do you expect residential prices in the Czech Republic to fall this year?
We assume there will be a gradual revival of demand in the real estate market at the turn of this year and next year. Also, newly-built residential projects have been delivered at certain construction costs and therefore we shall not expect a significant drop in the prices. The period of deferred demand creates the best opportunity to buy real estate this year. In the following years, prices will gradually rise again and discounts cannot be expected. This is further supported by the fact that the supply of new apartments, compared to natural demand, is insufficient and on the market, there is a significant housing deficit.
How would you summarise JRD’s overall ESG strategy?
The cornerstone of our strategy is to develop our company towards sustainability and we want to create a positive footprint. In the field of real estate development, this means that each house must fit into the existing landscape, have a renewable energy source and provide a healthy living inside.
That is why JRD Group covers a group of companies with sustainable business – JRD Development is a leader in the construction of low-energy and passive apartment buildings and the founder of the concept of healthy living, JRD Invest is dedicated to the management of income properties and healthy rental housing. JRD Land uses a unique approach to land development and creates new urban areas and JRD Energo division focuses on renewable energy. Our sister company Millenium Technologies deals with a revolutionary method of waste treatment – plasma gasification, which turns waste into energy and material. It is very exciting and it provides various synergies.
Less than two years ago JRD launched the Healthy Living Challenge (Výzvu za zdravé bydlení) to raise awareness among the general and professional public about the importance of a healthy indoor climate and sustainable construction. In what ways are you meeting this challenge? And would you change anything about the original goals?
The Healthy Living Challenge aims to bring together companies and individuals who perceive the importance of building healthy homes. We actively focus on education and the cultivation of the market. We are on a good way. As an example, I can mention the lecture “Passive as an achievable standard”, where the relevant experts shared their know-how. Besides JRD I can mention UCEEB, Saint-Gobain, Chance for Buildings (Šance pro budovy) and the Czech Green Building Council (Česká rada pro šetrné budovy).
In October 2022, JRD announced that it wants to contribute to the improvement of the landscape and the development of local biodiversity with its projects. How do you plan to reach this goal? And who will finance this and who will continue to look after these places in the future?
CSR and sustainability are key for our Group. These are integrated into the strategy of our divisions. In order to be able to finance this strategy and individual activities, we established the Endowment Fund for Sustainable Life. And it is within its framework to support and further develop activities that have a positive effect on the landscape. Although our Fund was only established in October, it has already completed three successful projects that help to improve the state of the landscape, and community life and thus contribute to the sustainability of the environment for future generations.
Do you see JRD as a leader in environmentally conscious development? Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
Typically, the residential owner had never been too interested in environmental consciousness, nor being able to pay any extras. Yet, JRD had been investing time, efforts and new technologies into the projects already for many years. Therefore, yes, I truly believe JRD is a leader in this area. Now, this is changing and environmental consciousness is being more common in residential development, too. And we are planning the next steps, such as timber construction, carbon neutrality etc.
To what extent do all these elements mentioned above also apply to old residential areas close to your development projects? Do you bring any improvements for the old residents as well?
As part of our projects, we always evaluate the needs of future residents as well as the specific needs of the community. We want to create not only a pleasant space for living but also a pleasant public space that immediately surrounds our apartment buildings. In this way, we create places for active leisure time (playgrounds, relaxation zones), ensure enough greenery (we plant mature trees and shrubs from our own plantations), build community gardens and, above all, actively minimize negative impacts on the environment through ecological construction and the use of renewable resources in built apartments.
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