A panel of experts from the worlds of property development and government concluded: “We won’t solve the housing crisis by doing what we are doing.”
Held at the recent Future Property Tech Conference in London, the topic of conversation was Solving the housing crisis.
Chaired by Susan Freeman, a property lawyer known for her twitter activity, the panel covered a lot of ground from plastic 3D printed bricks to the lack of transparency in the property industry.
Killian Hurley, chief executive of London property developer Mount Anvil, was the controversial highlight.
Beyond asking a Legal & General executive to catch a (plastic) brick, he repeatedly called property developers dinosaurs who had “one hell of a party” over the last ten years – which he said had contributed to “b*****-all change”.
Hurley added: “Necessity is the mother of all invention. Maybe when things are more challenging we’ll innovate more.”
These comments were supported by Dan Batterton, the build to rent fund manager from Legal and General who asked “How do we better use land” and asserted that “We’ve got the bedrooms to house everyone – just a lot are empty.”
He suggested there was “limited incentive” to make the existing house builders build in a different way and that they were “very successful businesses”.
Pointing to different forms of tenure, he suggested we are 100,000 homes short each year, so that the housing crisis is “a 100k home problem” which could be solved by build to rent, government building, and retirement housing each contributing 30,000 homes a year each.
There was no mention of government building homes, however, from Paul Maltby from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who outlined how his team were working to “improve the access to data, including planning, housing and selling” -– adding that housing is the Government’s “biggest domestic policy priority”.
In an open call to action he asked attendees of the conference to be forthcoming with their requests, as the Government is keen to get “data from leather bound volumes under desks into the hands of SMEs”.
Giving the example that it takes “70 days on average for conveyancing”, Maltby professed the Government is supporting a shift in the sector as an opportunity to “bring that down if the knowledge was there”.
When the conversation switched to how the industry could improve its practices, Hurley said that poaching staff from each other wasn’t the answer – giving the example of when they needed to hire a digital marketing person they asked who does that well.
To this, he answered himself with “The bookies do, so we hired a lady from William Hill who helps us with that diversity of thought and challenges how we are doing things”.
Batterton echoed this sentiment when describing how L&G had hired a Rolls Royce exec to run their pre-fab housing factory by saying she had “no background in property thank God”.
Speaking about the “generational inequality”, Hurley moved the conversation on to the UK “as a country having got comfortable with house price inflation being a good thing”.
This comment led to a focus on the much lamented planning system, as the “whole system is focused on home ownership” and “penalises modular houses”. Batterton gave the example that “difficult” sites can get concessions for less affordable housing they will take longer; whereas modular houses, which solve much of the issues in development are “penalised”.
Batterton signed off saying “I’d pay more to get better planning. When I buy land I know it’ll take two years to get planning.”
Another panellist added that it takes longer as the system is still reliant on “posting forms back if they weren’t filled out correctly” as a sentiment on how the industry still hasn’t entered the digital age.