Published in Estates Gazette this week, our Chief Executive Melanie Leech outlines the significance of what we achieved last week at MIPIM.
Another MIPIM has come and gone, and as usual (at least from my perspective) the time seemed to fly by. The BPF was busier than ever in our role as programme partner for the UK Government Pavilion and I was also delighted to support a number of events showcasing our regions – all on top of the BPF’s traditional events throughout the week.
As I was quoted several times as saying – it was clear that the UK industry was being scrutinised because of the recent publicity surrounding the Presidents Club charity dinner, but whilst it was possible to find evidence of the hangers-on that major conferences attract, those looking for scandal and evidence of the unreconstructed nature of our industry went away disappointed.
Challenges facing the industry
Indeed it was remarkable how much of the debate across the extensive programme of seminars and discussions, which characterised the week for me and many others, was devoted to the challenges facing our industry in seeking to become more diverse and inclusive. We know we have a lot of work to do – but debating the issue honestly and openly is surely an essential starting point. And, there are many industry leaders taking action and changing the way their businesses are run, recruit and develop their staff, who will help shape a more positive future in which our industry is attractive to – and attracts – the massively varied and vibrant talent pool across all of our communities.
The second major theme of the week was housing. Homes England was out in force at MIPIM and rightly so. With strong backing from both the Government and the private sector – not to mention substantial sums of money and real teeth – the agency has the wind in its sails. The importance of its mission to drive delivery of good quality accessible homes across the country can hardly be over-estimated. Its backing for Build-to-Rent was loud and clear, and hugely welcome to the institutions with billions of pounds to deploy who are keen to make a contribution to tackling one of our country’s biggest societal challenges.
I hope that when the history of this year’s MIPIM comes to be written in the Department for International Trade and the Ministry for Housing. Communities and Local Government, the significant achievements will be fully recognised. Of course we have our differences, but an overseas investor at MIPIM could not have failed to be struck by the consistency of the UK message this year.
A content-rich programme
Perhaps the embodiment of partnership across public and private sectors was the BPF and DIT working together to deliver a content-rich programme looking at all aspects of UK real estate in the UK Pavilion. This was reinforced by the clarity of the messages from local authorities including the new Metro Mayors – who rightly judged that they should weather any criticism about their attendance (and predictably got it from the Daily Mail) because of the importance of engaging with the attendees that MIPIM draws.
That’s not to say that there are not road bumps ahead – Brexit uncertainties continue to overshadow investor confidence and it may take some time yet firstly to have clarity about our future outside the EU and secondly to understand, and for the market to reflect, the realities of this new future. We need to be realistic about this, and about the cyclical nature of our industry. But I believe that, particularly on housing, stars are aligning in a way we have not seen in several generations – and provided we look beyond political rhetoric and spin, there is reason to be positive about the opportunities to work across public and private sectors to make a significant difference to housing delivery.
To return to my theme of diversity and talent – the most important challenge facing both our industry and the local authorities on whom housing delivery is equally dependent – is to make sure we can attract and retain the people required to turn these opportunities into reality.