Bringing down the barriers to building – Jackie Sadek, Chief Executive, UK Regeneration

In the last few days before the show, we in UKR are now continually asked by journalists: what are the hot topics to be debated at MIPIM next week? We are giving a lot of statements about both the Reed MIDEM UK Cities event and the Mayor’s Think Tank, and the debate around the comparative data on cities, and what makes for a successful place. However, we are also advising that underlying fundamental issues around the UK, European and global economy will be foremost in people’s minds at this difficult time.

For some weeks, our UK Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Grant Shapps, has been giving rather a measured and authoritative explication as to why the UK needs an orderly and slight decline in house prices over the next ten years. I don’t suppose this is something that our residential colleagues really want to hear, but it does have the virtue of making rather perfect sense for the UK economy. A “readjustment” was clearly on the cards (in a number of arenas as well as this one). The real question, I guess, for our industry and for the government dealing with the residential sector is: how do we stimulate the supply of homes in such conditions? The demand may continue to massively outstrip the supply, but why are we still not building? What can we do to dismantle barriers to building?

Much depends on how our industry collectively translates the recent UK Localism Bill into action. For example, what practical and significant things will local authorities really be able to do under the “general power of competence” (and this brings us back as to why we in UKR continue to nurture the local authorities for MIPIM)? There must be some new things on offer that couldn’t be done already just by tidying up the current legislation. One question is: will local authorities be allowed to go out and issue bonds? Grant Shapps once told me that the general power of competence meant “anything as long as it’s legal”; but is this use of (publicly owned) covenant strictly legal? The last skirmish that local authorities had with bonds was seen off by the collapse in Icelandic banks (but this was very much a political retreat, rather than a legal one), so where will we go from here? You know, UKR would be delighted to work with someone appropriate to stage a test case around this – it is such a grey area.

Next week at MIPIM, on the UKR stand (R27.18), we will be seeking to explore all of this, and more, for the New World. If localism really is a “30-year project”, and slow growth and orderly management of projects is the way forward, then I think we can provide the army of practitioners that will be required. We just need to know the rules of engagement.

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