Recently in Estates Gazette Category
It isn't just the actual games (of which I have the most hazy understanding) or the spectacle of the Olympics, although these are compelling enough: the heroics of Ennis, Murray and Bolt, the surprise results, Super Saturday, the medal tables, and so forth; it is also what it has done for the national morale, the commentary on the Twitter feed (these are the first "Twitter Olympics" I guess), the display of national pride normally so alien to the British psyche; the nuances of what it says about Britain and our culture.
And it's been a long year since our last MIPIM. A lot has happened. So without much ado, you can expect me to be giving a full report of progress at our two UKR events on the first day we are there.
Preparations in UKR are feverishly underway. We rocked around to Estates Gazette yesterday to discuss what will be the themes for MIPIM this year and, to be honest, it's rather difficult to assess. Obviously the Olympics, the recession and the eurozone crisis present a very mixed bag for the UK property industry and it is difficult to gauge the emerging themes and the mood.
Whew! I said. Calm down dear, for goodness sake, you'll have a hernia!
But he was seeking some proper thoughts on which of these could be serious prospects for progress in 2012, and which might end up moving a little slower, so of course I tried to be helpful. But you won't be surprised to learn my prognosis was a little bleak.
Greetings to 2012, then! Can I wish (as one of my more shy and retiring friends texted to me on January 1st ) that "the fleas of a thousand camels infest the **** of anyone who gets in your way and may their arms grow too short to scratch it". What a delightful sentiment.
But, before you ask, I've decided (from a wisdom born of years of failure) that New Year's resolutions totally suck. So... I've not made any resolutions this year. But let me be utterly foolhardy and make a prediction: this is the year when the private sector will truly step forward in urban regeneration.
I know I've been preaching a variant of this for some time but I genuinely think it will happen this year. It will always be the case that the quality of places, and the quality of life for the people who live in them, will ultimately depend on a combination of private and public actions. But as the public sector steps backwards, especially in terms of funding and control, the private sector, especially business, just HAS to step forward to fill the gap. So how to do it, you ask? Well the EG/UKR Build a Better Britain Regeneration Commission will continue to give you hints and tips in the weekly articles in the magazine. But, whilst you wait with bated breath for all of that, here are some quick and practical ideas on how to set about it:
The sun was streaming into City Hall (the Thames was twinkling), onto the great and good of the housing industry out in force. Charmaine Young of St George, in the most extraordinary feat, has corralled a massive number of industry leaders to produce the most formidable book Working Together. Delivering Growth through Localism (details can be found at www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/growth-and-localism). And it is a most assured treatment for the enlightened house builder. She is indeed a force to be reckoned with. And everyone was there.
As expected, Shelter did indeed issue its report this morning. And its findings are pretty shocking: that it is becoming almost impossible for ordinary working families to rent in England. We in UKR have spent the entire day calling for the industry to respond. It is a bald fact that this country needs more, a lot more, homes. So, of course, we welcomed the Shelter report because it highlights the basic lack of affordable homes for British people.
In fact, it is far worse than we think. We all know that as a country we have not built enough new houses since the War and this, coupled with the stark lack of mortgage availability, and an abundance of poor quality options out there for renters, leads us inexorably to the fact that in 55% of boroughs the private rented market, such as it is, is unaffordable to ordinary people.
And Grant Shapps on BBC Radio 4 today wellied in his support. He ruled out capping private rents (trust us, regulation is NOT the answer) and said the only way to solve the crisis was to build more homes. He claimed that at least 200,000 new homes a year were possible from the government's housing reforms and cited the revitalisation of the Right to Buy and handing over government land to developers to create the conditions. He also said reforming the planning system would make it easier to get more homes built (we're not convinced of this bit actually, there is a stack of consents out there which aren't being build out because of market conditions), adding in the New Homes Bonus and FirstBuy (the Government's new equity loan option - that is set to help more than 10,000 first time buyers to get a foot on the property ladder this year and next.) He said: "Overall, you have to get all these things working in tandem, there is not one single thing you can do to solve the housing crisis. It's been building up over years and years. The really big prize is to have a sense of house price stability so that future generations can afford to get on to the housing ladder. We're putting out a housing strategy next month and we're going to talk a lot more about those things in that as well."
Well, it is certainly a serious crisis. And we agree that you have to get things working in tandem; this is why we in UKR want to fundamentally address this issue by providing a new offer of high quality, secure, quality, rental stock - something that will appeal to working families caught between scarce social housing and hard to get mortgages. The government has given us the freedom to act. Now our industry needs to respond - builders, developers and investors - have to come together in a new way so that renting your own home is an option for everybody.
UK Regeneration intends to show the way with our part of the solution but we also intend to lead the industry. Look out for the UKR/EG Build a Better Britain Conference; we intend to make waves. In a positive way, naturally.
I was quite long in the tooth (in my mid-thirties, in fact, and working in site acquisitions for Tesco) before I learnt of the joyous (sic) concept of the "presumption against development", which is inculcated into every rookie planner from the day they sign up for their first year.
What an idea, I ask you? It always just screamed "wrong wrong wrong" at me, seeming so ... well .. just sooo .... wretchedly negative in tone. Even in a Tesco context (and, as we all know, food retailers are not always - ahem - the best behaved in the planning arena) it seemed like a strange precept on which to build a venerable profession. Would a doctor have a presumption against health? In law, are you not innocent until proven guilty?