MIPIM UK Round Up: Rio Ferdinand Flies the Flag for Affordable Housing, and more

MIPIM UK Round Up: Rio Ferdinand Flies the Flag for Affordable Housing, and more

Whether you were able to make it to MIPIM UK last week or not, Austin-Smith: Lord Partner, Martin Roe, shares an overview of some of the key themes picked up from his visit to the UK’s largest exhibition and conference for property professionals.

The conference programme boasted no fewer than five government ministers, including Gavin Barwell, Minister for Housing, Planning and London as well as many other property experts and of noticeably more interest to the media, Rio Ferdinand. Martin had a busy three days to say the least!

Martin Roe, Partner at Austin-Smith: Lord.

“My trip got off to a great start, thanks to the excellent new Flybe Cardiff to London flight. On arrival I headed to the Invest Glasgow lunch to join discussions on the Glasgow City Centre strategy. I was especially pleased to attend this event, as Austin-Smith: Lord are proud to be leading the team responsible for developing Regeneration Frameworks for four districts within the City Centre.

The mood amongst the assembled investors, developers and professionals was resoundingly positive and upbeat.  Brexit was mentioned almost in passing and the uncertainty it threatens did nothing to dampen the collective enthusiasm to press on with regeneration initiatives that will continue to transform the city.  Glasgow is most definitely ‘going places’ quickly and we will need to ensure our new master planning studies keep pace to facilitate this drive.

Amongst the some 3,000 other delegates gathered in London’s Olympia, I soon got stuck into some very informative seminars, sandwiched with a number of highly productive meetings I’d pre-arranged with both existing and hopefully future collaborators and co-professionals.

With that in mind, and on my flight home from London, I jotted down my personal top five take-aways from the overall event programme.

1. Rio Ferdinand Flies the Flag for Affordable Housing

It was heartening to hear former England football internationals Rio Ferdinand, Bobby Zamora and current West Ham captain Mark Noble discuss their Legacy Foundation – a unique project that combines residential, sport and community-led development which aims to deliver up to 50% affordable housing.

legacy foundation
Bobby says, “The reason i’m so passionate about Legacy is because, being from a council estate myself, like the other boys, we know what it’s like to live and breathe in those environments. It can be testing. We want to create an environment where it’s a lot easier for the families to survive there and to have a good future.”

Having looked a little more into the foundation, it aims to deliver schemes for Local Authorities that not only reduce the pressure on affordable housing and local community services, but that empower their tenants through onsite community and sporting facilities. I found their passion for supporting communities and willingness to give something back through the platform their celebrity statuses afford them, both inspiring and promising.

Their website reads, ‘We are very proud to be part of Legacy, a team that will deliver brand new affordable accommodation to areas that are very close to our hearts. We have spent years thinking of ways we can really make a difference to our communities and we now have the team and finance in place to execute this dream.’

If you’d like to know more about the work Legacy are doing, this video worth a watch.

2. Smarter ways of building will help solve the housing crisis

Affordable housing private developers, Pocket Living, focused on the innovative solutions needed in order to solve the UK housing crisis with their CEO, Marc Vlessing, taking a seat on the ‘UK Housing Challenge’ panel.

With London growing by 100,000 people every year and only 25,000 homes built last year, the panel discussed the different ways housing associations, residential developers and local authorities are working to tackle the UK’s lack of housing.

Pocket Living are strong advocates of the power of modular construction as a solution that delivers quicker and higher quality finish for the property industry. This resonated well with some of our own work in this crucial sector.

An article on their blog quoted, ‘This type of construction is being welcomed by the property industry, and politicians are embracing it as part of the solution to the housing crisis.  Not only that, modular construction can be more sustainable too, enabling better insulation, minimising waste, and reducing the impact of ‘messy’ construction on local neighbourhoods.’

One of Pocket’s modular schemes.
One of Pocket’s modular schemes.

In a CityAM article Tom Shaw, Director at Ramboll, said, ‘As well as finding the land to build these homes, we also need to find ways to build them quickly on a large scale. We must encourage those developing new technologies to flourish among more traditional construction techniques, open up supply chains and increase market capacity. I think there are three clever and modern methods of engineering that could be the answer.’

Of course modular construction is just one of the many innovations being adopted to address the housing challenges we face in the UK, but it was interesting to learn more about How Pocket Living were adopting this solution.

I found this time-lapse video especially interesting to watch!

3. Gavin Barwell MP confirms that Starter Homes will not be abandoned

The Government has announced plans to build 200,000 Starter Homes between now and 2020 – and defines a new Starter Home as any property costing less than £250,000 (or £450,000 in London). This immediately throws open the issue of defining ‘Starter Homes’ and indeed ‘Affordability’, particularly in the context of London.

The Local Government Association expressed concern in February that Starter Homes would be out of reach for the majority of people who most needed that form of assistance. Housing charity Shelter made a similar point, and warned that the scheme could mean housebuilders diverted funds from other, affordable schemes. So, whilst it is good to see policy around this issue, there is still a long way to go.

Gavin Barwell MP, Minister for Housing, Planning and London was on the ‘Infrastructure and The Integral Role of Housing’ panel. The panel examined the Government’s medium to long term infrastructure aspirations and the part housing has to play within these plans.

MIPIM UK 2016 seminar in progress.

Gavin told his MIPIM UK audience, “I think there is a moral case on housing in terms of people’s quality of life, but actually it has a real impact on productivity and labour mobility too, so it feeds into that core economic agenda,” he said.

“Most people want to own their own home. I want a system that’s bottom up – we are going to build the homes that we need to build.” He added, “There’s huge potential for off-site construction, driving innovation and diversification in the market.” Could there be some consensus emerging around MMC (Modern Methods of Construction)?

You might like to watch this short video interview of Gavin during MIPIM.

4. PRS could support sufficient diversity in the housing market

The UK has historically been a nation with a strong desire to be homeowners. With recent significant investment into the private rental sector from the likes of Invesco and Aberdeen Asset Management, could we be set for a cultural shift?

The ‘PRS – Is It’s Transformational Potential Overstated?’ panel session examined whether PRS will actually help the UK housing crisis and if it can ensure better affordability across the residential sector.

The panel of experts including Dan Batterton, Fund Manager, Legal & General and Michela Hancock, Development Director, Greystar raised that we can we learn from other countries, where private rental of homes is a far more prevalent and accepted form of housing, such as Germany and Switzerland.

An article on the Estates Gazette quoted, ‘A window of opportunity fuelled by unprecedented market conditions and demographic changes means the PRS model in both the capital and the wider UK is on the cusp of becoming a linchpin for helping create sufficient diversity in the housing sector.’

Speaking on the opening day of MIPIM UK, Gavin Barwell MP, Minister for Housing, Planning and London said: “The evidence is clear that most people want to own their own home. It is right that a part of policy is focused there.

“But fundamentally, the best thing we can do is get more homes, so we must make sure the ownership objective is not trumping supply.”

There is a clear and growing drive for PRS development as a good investment vehicle, spreading beyond the capital to major cities throughout the UK and this will clearly create new homes.  The question debated around Council chambers throughout the UK is how this can best help tackle the crisis for affordable homes.

5. Developers face UK planning lottery

I opened this article by conveying the optimism and drive of the assembled Glasgow investors and developers, and this was echoed throughout most of the conversations held through the conference across many regions.

Interestingly, rather than Brexit, one of the greatest fears and perceived barriers to future development was the ability of Local Authorities to keep pace with, and support private sector activity beyond the highest level of CEO’s.  The Estates Gazette’s study around Planning determinations was therefore extremely well timed. Developers are facing a postcode lottery when submitting planning applications, with new research revealing the discrepancy in resourcing and productivity across council departments.

Estates Gazette data shows a reduction in staff numbers of 30.4% in the 12 regional city councils which responded in full to their study. This compares with a 22.9% decrease in the number of applications received and a 24.8% fall in the number of applications decided.

Image sourced from Estates Gazette.
Image sourced from Estates Gazette shows number of  applications decided per head per year in London. Click here for full article.

In a recent Estates Gazette article, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We have got Britain building again, with almost 900,000 homes built since the end of 2009 and more than 250,000 planning permissions delivered last year – the highest on record and up by 70% on five years ago. Now our plans to introduce competition into the planning system will help speed up the process and get more homes built.”

In the same article, Pat Hayes, Ealing’s executive director of regeneration and housing, said freeing up planners from mundane domestic applications through deemed consents for certain building types in defined areas would help save money and retain skilled staff.

The government has more recently consulted on the possibility of introducing competition into the planning system through pilot schemes where developers choose alternative providers – a private sector body or alternative local authority – to process planning applications.

Closing note

If you’re unsure whether to attend MIPIM UK 2017, my advice would be to look through the conference programme when it’s released. I did just that and decided to attend as some of the topics covered struck me as relevant to the issues close to our hearts here at Austin-Smith: Lord, such as community regeneration and finding innovative solutions to the UK’s housing crisis.

I would warmly welcome your comments on the themes raised in this article, so please tweet your views.