CREATING CONNECTIONS... GENERATING OPPORTUNITIES

Positivity trumps Brexit concerns for 2017

25 Jan 2017

The fast paced run through from Tony started by comparing the vast size of the Capital to other UK and global cities by showing how they fit in to a map of greater London. At the core of his presentation was the case for fiscal devolution for the Capital, especially with regards to property taxes. He put forward a strong case for the benefits of London being able to operate and improve property taxes and the advantages this would bring to the wider economy

We are going to be running the “20:20 Market Bytes” at the start of all of our London breakfasts this year and would welcome suggestions for topical subjects and presenters. Our aim is to use the opportunity to provide insights into market issues, opportunities and ideas!

The main panel session covered a wide range of topics across the commercial and residential markets, with Liz Peace CBE chairing the debate and asking plenty of probing questions to the panellists. She also clarified for the audience that when house builders talk about “price action”, they do in fact mean reduced asking prices. “Muscular intervention” was the phrase of the morning. It is impossible to break the whole session down, but a few highlights are as follows:

- Office occupier demand is high Chris Grigg, Chief Executive of British Land, was in a buoyant mood and said that the property investment company, that owns millions of sq.ft of office space across London, is finding that the majority of discussions that had initially cooled in the
aftermath of the referendum are now back on. He argued that London’s core qualities, which are critical to attracting both talent and inward investment will remain in spite of Brexit Government to bring hundreds of sites to the market With representatives from the GLA, TfL and the Government Property Unit (GPU) on the panel, it is unsurprising that the issue of utilising public sector and Government owned land was high on the agenda. Sherin Aminossehe (COO of the GPU) revealed an impressive statistic that there are around 60,000 civil servants in offices in central London who don’t need to be based there and relocating them is part of a new drive to find fit for purpose offices. She said that going forward the Government is going to be thinking more commercially about its property occupation and ownership and that it is committed to coming out of between 600 and 800 offices across the UK in the coming years, which will lead to lots of surplus sites to bring to the market for regeneration

Anyone wanting to find out what Government land is being made available for development opportunities should visit: “https://www.gov.uk/find-government-property

Transport for London’s Graeme Craig added to this positive messaging saying that he wants to be bringing one site or development opportunity to market every month. He was pragmatic about what these opportunities could provide though and said that not every site will work for commercial, private residential and affordable homes, but it was about getting the right balance across the portfolio. It is worth noting that TFL owns 5700 acres of land and has over 400 sites development opportunities in the pipeline

Both Sherin and Graeme agreed that there has been more collaboration between public sector bodies, especially the Government and TfL to do more to bring land disposals forward in a coordinated manner. Sherin also announced that plans are currently being explored to release more NHS owned land, with more news to come on that soon. Graeme was clear in his belief though that for collaboration to really work they all need to spend more time together in the same room in order to understand each organisations drivers and interests

- What is affordable housing in London?

Jamie Ratcliff, Assistant Director of Policy, Programme and Services in the Housing and Land Directorate at the GLA, continued a theme that came out of the London Property Summit, showing an understanding that house builders can’t be expected to develop in a non-commercially sound manner. He believes that, under previous administrations, public policy has been focussed on trying to do the impossible and that the major house builders are delivering a good number of homes. That said, he stressed the need for a strong focus on the delivery of affordable
homes by utilising the range of tenures available and also working with more delivery partners, such as the smaller and medium sized developers

In its own bid to deliver more homes that Londoners can afford to buy, Gary Ennis Regional MD for London and the South East at Barratt, said that the national house builder is putting a greater emphasis on zones 4-6. He also feels that the Government could help with the issue of affordability around housing by reducing stamp duty, but isn’t holding his breath as he considers it highly unlikely to actually happen

- Positive outlook

We would expect nothing less from the panel, but all were positive about the London property market for 2017 and when asked to rank it out of ten, no-one went lower than a seven

Good news for all then!