Steve Room, Head of Residential Development
The British Property Foundation held its 2017 National Residential Investment Conference at The Landmark in London on Tuesday February 7th, which invited senior figures from the industry and policy-making to speak about the latest developments in this sector. Held on the same day as the much-anticipated Government White Paper on housing released by Sajid Javid, this provided plenty of news for discussion during the panel debates; as expected, Build to Rent and housing delivery were high up on the agenda.
The day kicked off with a talk from Joe Sarling, from planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield Partners (NLP), about housing supply; a hot topic following rumours that the Housing White Paper would announce ambitious housing targets, look to tackle the issue of land banking and take steps to break the monopoly of large developers to give more power to small and medium sized housebuilders.
Joe discussed local housing plans, highlighting that while 72% of councils have adopted local plans, only a third of these are up-to-date in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework. Of the plans submitted, 48% must increase their housing targets to meet requirements. NLP believes that local plans are the bedrock for development, as they enable local authorities to allocate land for development, rather than leaving development to speculative application which brings about more uncertainty, something small housebuilders in particular try to avoid.
This session also touched upon councils’ poor understanding of the relationship between permissions and delivery, which has a huge impact on the delivery of much-needed new homes. A large number of factors affect housing delivery and different sites offer different challenges. Delivery is an acute issue for large sites, such as the recently announced Garden Villages. Ultimately, local plans need to be improved and delivery rates must be addressed in order to build more homes more quickly and ease the UK’s housing deficit.
Build to Rent (BTR) was a prominent topic of the day. Savills presented its latest report on Britain’s rental market, which questioned whether BTR could help increase overall housing supply and discussed what policy options were available in order to support BTR. The report highlights the numerous advantages of BTR, including faster market absorption – a let up rate of 15 units per week, compared to 15 units per month for build for sale properties, according to Get Living London figures – its ability to unlock sites and its benefits towards placemaking and regeneration.
Savills expects the Private Rented Sector to reach a total of 5.7 million by 2018 and grow by more than one million households over the next five years. Following their research, Savills estimates that an additional £200bn of investment is needed in order to provide enough homes to accommodate this demand.
The final panel of the day, chaired by Sharon Quinlan, at Barclays, took a look at the different approached to Build to Rent and a range of possible solutions to requirements, from affordable rent and student lets, to shared equity and retirement.
It was encouraging to see that the industry is showing signs of adapting to the changing environment. We are exchanging ideas, debating different approaches and finding solutions. We are ‘rallying’ our way forward and this is what makes the property industry such a great sector to follow.