By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
Red Forgotten amid the jubilation of the Labour Party conference last week was the fact that Labour did not, in fact, win the General Election. However, when listening to their policies on rent controls, regeneration (termed ‘social cleansing’) and new land taxes, our industry should not forget that Labour remains favourite to win the next one. These are not the etchings of a permanent opposition, but rather the manifesto of a government in prospect. On an ideological level, Corbyn’s proposals are unlikely to be welcomed by free marketeers, capitalists, or many in the real estate industry. Left-wing pragmatists might also acknowledge the likely impact that Local Authority set rents would have on housing delivery, as markets inevitably wait for someone to change the rules. However, the unresolved challenges of unaffordable homes and displaced communities put the pressure back on the Conservatives to find an alternative solution, which surely starts with building more houses?
Blue Theresa May captured the zeitgeist ahead of the Conservative Party conference, when she acknowledged the need to remake the case for capitalism. For many younger voters, the attractive promises made by Jeremy Corbyn come without any experience of the alternative that he offers. However, it is those under 30 (many new to the voting pool and only c.20% voting Conservative) that are increasingly important to the Tories; a party accused of wilfully ignoring the challenges of a large part of the electorate. Today, May calls colleagues to ‘shape up and give the country the Government it needs’. Part of this, says Sajid Javid, involves a ‘complete rethink’ of social housing in the form of a Green Paper, a frankly overdue regulation of letting agents, more protections for the private rented sector (now 20% of all homes) and incentives to grant tenancies longer than 12 months. Finally, May today announced £2bn new funding to launch ‘a new generation of council housing’.
Seaside slide When demand fails in an industry, the market typically allows it to die out. Not so for our towns and cities, which we continue to prop up with funding regardless of their viability. A recent publication by Social Market Foundation charts the failure of the UK’s coastal towns. In these communities, GVA is 26% lower, health is worse, and average pay is less (85% of coastal towns fall below average). As tourism has internationalised, the economic growth of these towns delivered in the Victorian era has reversed, leaving many without a purpose, connectivity or a new economic proposition. In spite of chronic unemployment, there remains a political reluctance to manage the decline of poorly performing areas, or to encourage relocation. Since those with greater education and earning potential are typically more mobile, the result is an increasing concentration of challenged communities, which need increasing central support. Cash for physical regeneration can be a powerful spur for change but, without the associated job creation, are we just creating nice looking white elephants?
Empire Strikes Back Berkshire-based Star Wars fans might be disappointed to learn this week that Windsor Great Park will not be playing host to an army of storm-troopers, after it transpires that The Crown Estate politely declined the filming opportunity. Nevertheless, readers might be surprised to note that many of the events of ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ did in fact take place a little closer to home. For instance, the lush paradise planet of Naboo is not, as we were led to believe, on the edge of the Outer Rim Territories, but is instead on the edge of the Outer Orbital Ringroad, near Watford. More understandably, it turns out that the Imperial Security complex on Scarif is in fact the Sir Norman Foster designed Canary Wharf tube station. And finally, the reason that Darth Vadar searched for years to no avail for the Hidden Rebel Base, is that it enjoys a strategically inconspicuous location on the dark side of Bedford.