Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Housing Need and Finance: Many Challenges but Cautious Optimism.

Last Monday night saw the latest of Landmark's free development seminars at the Parcel Yard. Held for an hour or so after work, followed by retiring to the bar seems a great way to have some very genuine CPD and hear the views of other professionals from a variety of disciplines.
This time we ran with three speakers, not two, with Pat Willoughby (Strategic Planning Manager, Leicester & Leicestershire); Grant Butterworth (Head of Planning, Leicester) and Mike Kirsopp (CEO Cambridge and Counties Bank).
Pat ran through where we are in terms of assessing housing need, following the completion of the HEDNA (Housing & Economic Development Needs Assessment).  This is assuming the Government don’t change the assessment method! That is we know the need, but it has not been agreed how to allocate it across the County.
Grant demonstrated current Leicester trends and policy responses, particularly on the new frontier of the Waterside, namely lower height and density than recent student and more general flat development. This led wonderfully into what are the current trends and opportunities to finance the undoubted need.
Mike talked through emerging sources of finance, especially from abroad and then went on to look how political interference so affected the market. However, his most interesting comments were saved for the broader investment classes that are emerging, post the student market explosion of the last 10 years. 
While the housing crisis will not be solved through the commercial markets alone, cultural shifts from increased large scale, private sector rent (PRS) development to different financial products (e.g. multi-generational mortgages) and modular factory production to deal with skill shortages, speed development and reduce costs are the ways forward. Added together, this gives me grounds for cautious optimism.
And very interestingly the speakers all agreed that a new paradigm is opening up inside our cities, where the greatest opportunities and growth could occur. Greenfield development, especially in sustainable urban extensions (SUEs) is becoming increasingly difficult for a plethora of reasons and will not solve our housing crisis. Cautious optimism, with different solutions and tools, including greater public/private partnerships to what has been the tradition of the last 60 years, will be the way forward.
What a stimulating evening!