VIDEO | Is development on pause?

Rising construction costs, the skills shortage and the push for net zero could put a damper on the property industry. But is that the case? This roundtable, hosted by L&Q, explored that question.

Held during the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference, the discussion touched on inflation, partnerships, viability and the need for bravery in times of uncertainty.

The discussion, which you can also watch on Place North West‘s YouTube channel, was hosted by Place North West deputy editor Julia Hatmaker.

The participants were:

  • Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group chief executive L&Q
  • Sean Anstee, group chair of Trafford Housing Trust
  • Nicola Rigby, principal at Avison Young
  • Hilary Brett-Parr, project director at FEC
  • Richard Roe, corporate director of place at Trafford Council
  • Euan Hall, chief executive at The Land Trust
  • Sarah Morton, director for the North at Mace
  • Vicky Savage, group director of development and sales at L&Q

Key talking points:

Fiona Fletcher-Smith: “If there is a recession… we can be counter-cyclical. We can keep going, regardless of what the economy is doing because one of the main products that we build is social housing. There’s an almost endless need for social housing. The country needs 340,000 new homes every year. We’ve got about 8.4 million Britons inadequately housed. So we can fill that gap and keep building.”

Sarah Morton: “The questions we’ve got from some of our clients are around potentially pausing because of the way of inflation – our recommendation is more around ‘Do it now. Get the projects underway, so you can then move forwards in terms of beating the market.’”

Nicola Rigby: “There’s opportunity in economic change and I think we are firmly fixed on what that opportunity can be… within periods of high inflation, where mortgage payments are a sensitivity, there’s great opportunity in affordable housing. There’s great opportunity in build-to-rent.”

Vicky Savage: “I do think there’s also a time to take a breath and to look at what’s happening on the ground. In terms of demand, we see huge demand. We have a strategic land company, L&Q Estates – every site we bring to the market is overbid. It exceeds our expectations. That isn’t changing. I think we’ve got to be really careful as professionals that we don’t talk ourselves into some sort of recession that isn’t happening.”

Sean Anstee: “It used to be that you’d have customers and tenants say to us that they want to see the visible things. They want us to invest in the carpets and wallpaper and whatever. Actually, a high inflationary environment with rising energy bills is shifting the demand from our customers to then say ‘Actually, even if we can’t see what you’ve done – now that you’ve made our home more efficient we’re saving on our energy bills.’ From our perspectives, our customers are telling us they want to invest in this type of thing.”

Euan Hall: “Innovation and risk don’t necessarily go together in a positive way in our society. If I look back at The Land Trust, it took me three years initially to convince the Treasury that it might be a good idea to try. They then said ‘Let’s do a pilot for three years’. We proved it worked after two years and it took them another four years to say ‘yes’, because there was a bit of a risk. I think a lot of organisations and financiers are avoiding risk rather than managing risk. If we want to move things forward, we’ve got to become less, less risk averse.”

Hilary Brett-Parr: “What’s really essential is access to long-term grants and funding programmes from central government. This three-year funding cycle that we’re on makes it really difficult. We’ll continue to promote, invest and take risks in Victoria North, but we do need that continued access to central government funding.”

Richard Roe: “If you do the right things, the money will follow. I think that is about focusing on what we’re doing. Why are we doing it? This is about improving the lives of individuals, creating places, improving the built environment and the non-built environment.”

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