Futureproofing against a changing real estate landscape


DAC Future CityI am delighted that DAC Beachcroft will be supporting Place Insight for the coming year. It will take us into 2020 – a year that used to be shorthand for the distant future! As we try in our small way to help shape a world that is more utopian than dystopian I thought it might be useful, before getting down to the more technical information, to put the legal advice we are going to deliver into the wider context of some of the trends shaping the built environment.

The challenges of failing high streets, housing shortages, restricted space for development and environmental damage demand solutions and this is why, for me, it is a stimulating time to be involved in real estate. Co-working, co-living, proptech and artificial intelligence are just some of the societal and technical evolutions that are making the life of a real estate lawyer very interesting.

There was a time when residential was residential and retail was retail – but it was only for a short time, in the latter half of the twentieth century and early part of the twenty first century. We are now beginning to experience a return to the days when our high streets were a dynamic mix of shops, homes and businesses. Local authorities, developers and operators are all active in placemaking; a welcome reaction to uniformity and a response to the need to constantly regenerate and renew. The future is mixed use and requires those involved to pool their skills and knowledge in their respective specialist areas.

Success will depend on greater collaboration between all parties, including their lawyers – and the need to find some sophisticated and creative responses. Thinking on a larger scale is clearly required when trying to address, for example, an increasing number of empty department stores. Currently planning permission for conversion from retail to resi is restricted to 150sqm cumulatively in any building – approximately equivalent to five studio apartments.

Our housing crisis is not just one of shortage, but also of type. Shelter’s report, The Future of Housing and Homes: Scenarios for 2030, describes a population that will increase to 72 million. Only 31% of current 25 year olds are likely to buy their own home, half of that for those born in the 60s and 70s. What further legislative changes are needed so that tenants can feel as settled and committed to a community as homeowners? How will this affect landlords? How can tenants fund their old age, without the equity of their own home to fall back on?

At the end of the day it does translate into leases and clauses, but good outcomes are borne, in part, from lawyers attempts to futureproof a legal document, creating an agreement that is flexible enough to respond to inevitable change. It’s reacting to these shifts that continue to inspire me and the team at DAC Beachcroft.

In our senior team of partners and legal directors we have Liz Donnelly, Sally Morris-Smith, Leanne Murray, Rachael Reynolds, Adrian Wallbank and Peter Williams. You are likely to hear from many of them, together with other specialists from our regulatory, employment, technology, corporate and insurance groups in Manchester who all support our real estate clients. We look forward to providing some advice and insights on the trends and legislation that are shaping our landscape over the next 12 months.

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Alison Key

Alison Key

  • Partner
  • DAC Beachcroft