Disrupt the system - deliver more homes!

MPC enjoyed a day of policy and planning at the BPF’s ‘Housing for my Generation’ conference on Tuesday. Given ‘The Who’ reference in the title, accompanied by the mod design, one could be forgiven for thinking that this conference would be filled with baby boom generation speakers congratulating each other on the exponential growth of their personal wealth thanks to ballooning property values.

Fears were assuaged however as the opening speakers made it clear that the focus of the day would be the thorny issue of how to deliver those 300,000 new homes needed per year. The conference would focus on what could be the potential “disruptors” within the property market that will sweep away the impediments and make delivery a certainty rather than a challenge. What will do for planning what Amazon did for logistics?

The size of this task was brought into focus by Lindsay Judge of the Resolution Foundation and Kate Webb of Shelter. Approximately 80% of new properties built in London are affordable for just 8% of the London population, whilst it is predicted that fewer than 50% of Millennials will be homeowners. Quite aside from discussions regarding the fairness of such a situation and indeed whether we should be moving away from our ideological preoccupation with homeownership, this creates pressure on the welfare state as older renters are more likely to require housing assistance once retired. National growth will suffer too, as the high cost of renting affects the wealth and spending power of those unable to afford to buy.

What was less clear was what those disrupting forces that will spark life into the system would be. There was broad agreement at the conference that major impediments to house building were the planning process, land supply and a lack of stability and consistency from national government. Appeals for a national housing policy that would enable developers to make plans for the next 20 years, implementing the Housing White Paper, promoting collaboration between government departments, and increasing skills by including more apprenticeships within Section 106 agreements were all mooted as potential boons to the industry. All of these steps would produce measurable results, but would they disrupt the industry sufficiently to make 300,000 homes a year an achievable target?

The way that Amazon was able to so comprehensively disrupt the world of logistics was thanks to new ideas using new technologies to achieve unprecedented results. The business, and therefore the industry, created its own disruptors. Similarly Uber disrupted its industry so comprehensively that many governors in many nations are scrambling to keep up. Perhaps it’s time for those in the planning industry to create the disruptors needed for expansion using their own wrecking balls, rather than continuing to wait on national government’s.

This article was written by Gerard Cockburn, Senior Account Executive at MPC.