If I were to ask you what you thought the total transactional value of the UK property industry would be, what would be your best guess? Disappointingly, I only wish that I could enlighten you, as despite searching high and low on Google, you may or may not be surprised to hear that this no doubt incredible sum has either as yet not been published, or indeed has still to be calculated.
However, I think that we can agree that whatever that total sum might be, it would be a pretty substantial number. As it would cover the activities of Estate Agents, Land Agents, Chartered Surveyors, Quantity Surveyors, Architects, Developers, Interior Designers (and I really could go on) in all the main sectors, including – residential, industrial, agricultural & commercial property, as well as leisure development & social housing.
Given that property (in its broadest sense) is all encompassing, and touches the lives of the majority of the UK electorate in one way or another, would you not think that the industry’s many and various governing bodies would have route one access to the ear of government? If they do – why do we always seem to have an on-going housing crisis? Perhaps more importantly in many respects, why does government housing policy appear (from the outside at least) to be uncoordinated at best, and (in certain instances) downright nonsensical at worst?
I fully understand that there are a great many vested interests at stake, but with space at a premium on this small and overcrowded island of ours, should it not be one of our main priorities as a nation to ensure that government, environmental groups and the property industry work more closely together for some sort of common good?
Rather frustratingly, the government itself must take its own share of the blame for inexplicable incompetence when relatively recently selling off land and development assets. This was highlighted in a Channel 4 documentary called “The Great Housing Scandal” (aired on TV back in August of this year) that showed what can happen when cash strapped government departments (in this case the MOD) make short term decisions. Such as for example, selling off large residential sites cheaply by not seeking planning permission prior to sale, or sanctioning the sale of land designated for housing – but then selling it off without any enforceable conditions for its use.
Cock up or conspiracy? Well who knows, but it rather underpins my argument that co-ordination between national government, local government and the property industry is essential if the tax payer’s rather deep pockets are to avoid being compromised any further. But the main challenge as far as I am concerned, is simply to seek to achieve a strategic balance between a) developers – who have a clear mandate to build for profit, b) local government – who plan an appropriate mix of development, and c) national government – who are required to design and oversee a national development strategy.
If we can only make a better attempt to get this balance right, we at least give ourselves half a chance to 1) house our key workers, such as nurses, carers, police & firemen, 2) make a more credible attempt at reducing homelessness, and 3) allow future generations of first time buyers to have a realistic opportunity to own their own home.
After all, the first time buyers of today are only guilty of sharing the same aspiration of home ownership that we have enjoyed throughout our lives, and dare I suggest, most certainly taken for granted.
The author of this article is Peter Nicholls, CEO of Ideology Consulting. For more information, go to www.ideologyconsulting.co.uk .