Residential sector resolute in face of adversity

Who would have believed that after such a stormy 2016, this year would be, if anything, even more turbulent for the housing sector?

It all started so promisingly with the publication of the housing white paper in February, but a few short months later Gavin Barwell, the man overseeing it, was gone and yet another new housing and planning minister had been installed in the shape of Alok Sharma, who will be delivering his first major public speech at the RESI Conference next week (or this week if you are reading this at Celtic Manor) and hopefully shedding some light on the fate of the white paper.

As Steve Norris notes, it would also be good to find out how he plans to deliver real housing growth, which is not going to be easy given all the uncertainty.

Yet amid all the concerns about Brexit and nervousness about where house prices are heading - and despite the difficult questions raised by the Grenfell Tower tragedy - the market continues to defy the doom and gloom and gather momentum, particularly in certain sectors.

As we reveal this week, Lendlease is close to securing £1bn in funding from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to launch a new build-to-rent platform, underlining the seemingly insatiable appetite for BTR at the moment. Meanwhile, Bellway is looking to develop 500 new homes on a site in Bexley it has bought from Sports Direct and Legal & General is chasing the grey pound with its new retirement living arm - who’d bet against retirement living following BTR out of the alternative sector and into the mainstream, by the way?

Of course, one of the big challenges for every part of the housing market is affordability, another issue that is set to be a hot topic at RESI - especially in light of our Hot Housing Index of the best places to live in the UK. Had affordability been the most important metric in the CACI survey, as it was last year, not a single London location would have made it into the top 50. How damning is that and how indicative of the new class system that has emerged, predicated not on whether you are upper, middle or lower class, but simply on whether you live in London or not?

Read the list of the nation’s top towns and cities here

This year, however, Wandsworth made the cut despite scoring the lowest grade in terms of affordability because it scored highly against a new metric introduced by CACI: propensity to move home. Edinburgh leapt from fifth place to take the top spot for the same reason. I can only speculate that my hometown of Margate was missing from the ranking because its propensity to move score was too low!

Not that I will be there next week. I will be at the Celtic Manor Resort for RESI - and what a RESI it promises to be. The agenda is as packed as any I can remember, covering everything from the perennial problems with planning and the impact of the 3% stamp duty surcharge to the growing role of housing associations, modular construction and proptech - rather fittingly given that the umbrella theme of this year’s conference is Modern Methods of Disruption - see what we did there? If you haven’t booked your ticket yet, you’d better get your skates on…

For full details on the event and how to book go to www.resiconf.com

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