What a difference a week makes. This Wednesday, the great and the good of the residential sector gathered at Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane for the RESI Awards 2017.
Just seven days earlier, the whole industry had been looking ahead with trepidation to the local elections and presidential election in France and wondering whether the world would continue to spin like a perverse tombola that never produces any winning tickets.
While we cannot yet breathe a sigh of relief, we can at least now ditch the brown bags we have been hyperventilating into - for the next few weeks, anyway. Following last week’s local elections, the assumption is that Theresa May will win the general election by a significant majority.
Let’s hope last week’s decisive result and the near miss with Marine Le Pen in France do indeed signal a return to normality. Let’s hope also that housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell keeps his seat. The last thing we need in these turbulent times is a changing of the guard, especially when the government seems to be more engaged with the industry than ever.
It needs to be if we are to continue making progress tackling the housing crisis. The outlook for house price growth is grim, with house prices flatlining or starting to fall. Meanwhile, construction costs continue to soar and it gets no easier to navigate the rocky planning terrain.
Fortunately, the residential sector continues to fight the good fight, as this year’s RESI Awards winners attest. It is hard to recall a more diverse array of companies and individuals - but perhaps that should come as no surprise given how diverse the residential sector now is.
Just think of who is pioneering in build-to-rent, modular housing and regeneration; the way the housing associations have ramped up their presence in BTR; and the small players making their mark in both the development and agency worlds.
Times are changing and so, clearly, are the players.
The old norms are not just being challenged in the residential sector. This week, one of JLL’s leading shareholders launched an excoriating attack on the global agency, accusing it of rewarding former chief executive Colin Dyer with “pay for failure” in the wake of his $11m (£8.5m) pay deal last year.
The incident has shone a welcome spotlight on excessive executive pay, coincidentally just as the Institute of Directors called for investors to have a bigger say in executive pay to rebuild public trust in business.
Massive payouts are rightly being questioned. It seems totally disproportionate that workers can earn less than 5% of what their CEOs get paid. However, it is worth noting that it is only the listed sector under scrutiny: we don’t know what private equity and hedge fund bosses are pocketing in the private market because it is just that.
There is a danger of a two-tier market emerging, where the listed sector is unable to compete with the private on pay, or companies and talent decamp to the non-listed sector to avoid scrutiny. That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest - least of all the erstwhile shareholders’.