Even restricted by policy we can run a good race
Property Week

Even restricted by policy we can run a good race

Mike Hussey

I think it is fair to say that the property industry is, and will continue to be, a constant source of disappointment to central and local government.

Their attitude is perhaps not dissimilar to you sending your children to school sports day with their feet tied together, then criticising them for coming last in the 100-metre sprint race.

It is astonishing that despite the laudable strides made in property lobbying over the last decade, we still seem to make little headway in garnering an understanding and alignment with the policy and decision makers on some key areas.

They blame us for not enough housing. We blame them for an inefficient planning system and for taxing development.

They blame us for selling to foreign buyers at exorbitant prices, and we blame them for lack of supply through an inefficient planning system and for taxing development.

They want us to pay for infrastructure, we argue that we can’t afford it and blame them for an inefficient planning system and for taxing development.

They produce the National Planning Policy Framework and extend permitted development rights. We say it hasn’t gone far enough, and we blame them for an inefficient planning system and for taxing development.

While it may not be quite as binary as this, it’s close, and in order to move on, we need to switch to a different track on the record. All credit therefore goes to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) for having a go at an active, constructive response to the paucity of new build housing in the capital. It is no coincidence that Tony Pidgley is the chair. He is a man who will find a way to provide an appropriate level of housing if a way exists.

This is rapidly becoming a social issue that will affect us all and in more ways than simply depressed real estate returns, so let’s embrace this initiative and get some wider buy-in.

Baby steps

Pidgley didn’t write the report, but he did lead the extensive discussions. LCCI didn’t think of it first either, but they got the ear of government and, importantly, they offered a first-steps guide to making the situation better, rather than trying to solve the problem immediately.

The LCCI Report is couched in terms that allow policy makers to work on the whole size of the canvas while painting starts in one corner. This means that time frames can be met and politicians tied in through staged deliverables. Importantly, the man who does it best says it can be done, which is a big hook for the politicians.

So can this be rolled out? Yes, of course.

We need to put doers in the frame to underwrite our policy responses. We need to put policy into perspective and show whether it can be achieved, and how. We need to try and run the 100-metre race with our feet tied together and show what it looks like if the cords are loosened.

On large London schemes, let’s deliver affordable housing in bricks and mortar, not through commuted payments (we know the sites are there for off-site delivery even if the site itself cannot absorb it).

If all major developers are at capacity with their schemes, let’s explore ways they offer a site in tandem with a local authority planning brief so others can advance delivery.

For property lobbying to be successful, we need as an industry to offer practical help and promoters to demonstrate practical steps towards the ideal. We have to practice acceptance if this is going to work.

As an industry, we have to accept that we have disappointed the politicians and therefore the people who vote for them. Let’s not get punished (taxed) further for lack of innovation; let’s see what constructive action can achieve.


— Mike Hussey