As the Landmark Hotel opened its doors to delegates for the BPF Residential Investment Conference 2018, the industry was able to sit back and take stock of the past year which had seen renewed vigour and focus on housing by Government. And rightly so. Housing isn’t a nice to have or an aspirational dream of a few, it’s a necessary requirement, it’s the bedrock upon which society can operate, the foundation of family life and it should be accessible. To all.
This year’s conference; Housing for my Generation, reflected this mood. The nation’s housing needs are varied and diverse. Whether you are a young professional embarking on your career, a couple looking to set up a home together, a family that needs somewhere to grow or retirees looking to enjoy the fruits of your labour, housing matters and it needs to be a perfect fit. So, it’s not just about throwing up blocks of homogenous units, each as identical as the next, it’s about good design, great quality and giving people the opportunity to turn a house into their home.
Kicking off the day’s proceedings, the conference chair, Nick Jopling, former Executive Property Director at Grainger, was in an inquisitive mood and following a welcome by BPF President, Paul Brundage and BPF Residential Board Chairman, Duncan Salvesen, Nick welcomed on stage the Former Minister of State for Housing, Mark Prisk MP to give his keynote address. The tone was one of quiet optimism, changes were afoot, and the publication of the Housing White Paper was testament to this. Government had made huge strides in accepting that to provide the homes that were needed, a multi-tenure approach was required and Build to Rent had a big part to play in this. But, and this is a significant but, constant Ministerial changes threatened to upset the balance and continuity within Government was essential if policy was to achieve its aims.
It was a great start and it got better. Resolution Foundation’s Lyndsay Judge treated delegates to latest research into what was really bugging millennials (and their parents) and the first panel session helped whet appetites ahead of lunch, highlighting how policy was intrinsic to increasing supply and rebalancing demand.
With full stomachs but still hungry for more, delegates returned for the afternoon sessions kicking off with Former Deputy Mayor of London, Ric Blakeway and Deputy Chairman of the City of London Policy and Resources Committee, Sir Mark Boleat drilling down into London’s housing shortage. Our loan stars session took a closer look at funding for BTR developments and those emerging disruptors in the industry who were to be welcomed rather than feared.
Following afternoon tea, the final sessions reflected on how the industry could come together to build more homes, what the mood was really like on the ground for tenants and investors and how BTR was not just about creating places to live, but about creating places, full stop. Louise Wyman, Head of Strategy at Homes England ended on a high and nods of approval (or was it relief?) were seen from members of the audience at the recognition of a problem and the work towards a solution.
So, as delegates mulled over the day with a glass in hand, had it been a successful day? Well, yes. We have a housing shortage and change is needed. The years of neglect in building new homes cannot be undone overnight but Government seems to have finally got it. The challenge now, however, is to get on with it.