May 2012 Archives
And it is indeed a very good question (although I rather resent his parting jibe to the effect of: I know it's London and you're not interested anymore being "some sort of northerner now". I retorted that I am indeed a genuine fully paid-up northerner now; and I blanked his later snobby references to whippets and so on)...
There is an excellent briefing from Hamptons International, "Barriers to Institutional Investment into the UK private rented sector", which says that despite it being an objective of the UK government for some time to attract institutional investors into this market, and a number of initiatives aimed at achieving this outcome, "there has been only minimal growth with volume of investment at-scale dominated by individual buy-to-let investors".
It is a funny old world. We're slow to react, even in crisis. Despite the lack of mortgages out there, the sector has responded very poorly indeed to the changing profile, expectations and aspirations of those who rent. Despite the cognoscenti widely acknowledging that we need to diversify housing stock and introduce wholesale build-to-let, as in the US or on the Continent, the argument is really not being made. Almost all popular opinion forming agents out there (from the government in its housing strategy to almost all the commentary in the broadsheets) is still stuck in the same old holy-grail-of-home-owning groove. Unlike in the US or in continental Europe, by implication, renting is always seen as a second best option. I guess there will always be votes in rising house prices, and nobody has worked out what happens when house prices don't rise.
I am conscious that I've been a little curmudgeonly about the Olympics in past months and years. It's only a function of bile really: they didn't seek me out for a key job just as soon as we won the bid (which I felt was only my just desserts!) and I've been sulking about it ever since. And I'm not uber-sporty (possibly the under-statement of the century!) so I'm not a natural for any of the non-regeneration or legacy elements (aka "sport", I am given to understand).
Lessons in this for all home buyers huh! Rightmove director Miles Shipside has commented (rather wisely): "Home movers carry out lots of research before they buy their next home, including what prices are being paid in the street and how the accommodation sizes up, but the first time they meet and size up their neighbours is probably after they've moved in.
"In the current economic climate where people must work hard to progress, and even hold onto, their careers, we are increasingly looking to our homes as a sanctuary to relax and unwind. If our troubles are persisting when we get home at night due to unruly neighbours then that can present a real problem and is an understandable driver to move on." Rightmove also concludes, rather bleakly, that with transaction levels running at around half of historic norms "there could well be the same number of people stuck in their current homes and wishing they could get away!"
Much of the management time in UKR is focused on trying to get a new, commercially sustainable, delivery vehicle off the ground of course (nearly there, I promise!) but we realised early on that we neglect the sharing of knowledge and best practice at our peril. So we keep up this end of the work, with our highly regarded UKR Forum and our regular Breakfast Briefings. We think it is important to continually assess and evaluate what you are doing...
And hearty congratulations to Nick Botterill, Cllr Greenhalgh's successor, who has been conclusively elected leader by his group (although it is subject to ratification of full council on 30 May) and who now takes up what has to be one of the most important jobs in local government in the UK. Cllr Botterill himself acknowledged this in a rather sweet quote at the weekend: "It is an honour and a privilege to be nominated to be leader of not only the best council in London but the best council in Britain." What an expression of hope!
It has been my own honour and privilege to have known Nick Botterill from back in the day when we were nippers in student politics (ahhhh) albeit from differing camps (and different universities! His was just a tiny tad better), and it certainly is the case that he's a pukka geezer alright. Cllr Botterill is a very bright and a very astute man with brilliant connections, built over a couple of decades' experience in senior Conservative politics. And, rather more importantly, he has an impressive track record as a businessman in his own right; he built his own very successful business from scratch, which he later sold very well, and he has huge commercial acumen and a thorough understanding of the agendas around job creation and growth. He works hard, and is a warm human being. He is funny. And he has impeccable manners.
This wholesale resistance to the holy grail of elected mayors is a bit of a blow for the "city chatterati" who have, in time-honoured tradition, blamed the government for not communicating the benefits clearly enough. The most common comment is "a missed opportunity". But was it?
Keeping close to matters in Nottingham (as I do) I can confirm that the turnout there was less than a quarter of the electorate. And the most cited bone of contention was one of resourcing; a mayoral office would be an extra expense (although this had been robustly disputed by Mr Pickles) in a city already well-led. The official statement from the City Council on Friday reads: "The outcome means that the council will continue to run as it already was under the leader and cabinet model. Nottingham City Council had agreed a policy position ahead of the referendum that it was opposed to the introduction of an Elected Mayor as it would not represent value for money City Council Leader, Councillor Jon Collins, has said: 'This was a referendum imposed on us by the Coalition Government which the majority of local people clearly did not agree with. I am pleased with this outcome because an Elected Mayor would have been expensive and unnecessary. This outcome shows that local people recognise we have a system in Nottingham which is working well for them and the city'."
So.... Manchester, Nottingham, Coventry and Bradford have rejected the proposal for a directly elected mayor.
I am mildly surprised actually. But I guess there was always a philosophical disconnect between a centrist London cognoscenti push to get regional cities to adopt elected mayors and the ethos of localism and the general power of competence. You do have to ask why successive governments get it so wrong with trying to persuade the nation that regional government is the way forward. Nobody seemed to learn much from the ill fated attempt by John Prescott trying to convince very sceptical, and very opposed, regions to vote for a regional government structure back in the day. That was a complete waste of time, but we didn't read the runes. The mayoral referenda were touted as a key part of localism and improving democratic accountability but, contrary to everything which the Government promoted, the public seem to have perceived it as absolutely the opposite.
And I was thrilled to learn that my old friend (and sometime sparring partner) Graham King from Westminster council has won the Alan Cherry Award for Placemaking at the Alan Cherry Debate this year. A much-deserved accolade for our bearded man-mountain, sorry that should have read "institution in the property industry". I have a long standing personal connection (aka bone to pick) with Graham King. As architect of the PSPA (Paddington Special Policy Area), Graham was instrumental in causing me a certain amount of trouble and strife during six years of my own career. But the bloke's a genius (Paul Finch once brilliantly described him as "a delight"), and our creative tension was all to great effect at Paddington, I think you'll agree. And it was very good to see him receive this fine tribute, awarded in the name of the great Alan Cherry, that very fine placemaker. My hearty congratulations to him.
Well... it's a good thought, Ross. A very good thought. And the UKR Business Plan (our audacious aspiration to deliver 20,000 homes by 2020) intends to do just that. Homes with jobs as closely associated with them as can be achieved (although as Dr Evans keeps observing, with some amusement, we're not going down the road of tied cottages!). And there is much interest in our homes-with-economic-growth formula. I am delighted to be addressing an august gathering of the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors on this very subject next week (10 May) in Barnsley, and I hope to see a goodly few of you there. It's a long time since I've been to Barnsley.