As the school holidays begin and many of us approach our summer breaks — well deserved for all — I wanted to highlight a number of forthcoming challenges that, if left to their own accord, could very well change the landscape of not only our British property industry, but that of Europe and beyond.
There is the Scottish independence referendum this autumn (a parallel to the 49% no/51% yes, Quebec Referendum in Canada in 1995) and the UK General Election next spring.
There may be European Union referendums — given the results of the recent European elections, it’s possible that multiple referendums on membership or at least restructuring of the European Union may occur.
Economically, there are ongoing changes to financial industry regulation and an inevitable Bank of England increase in interest rates.
Government fiscal imbalances and resultant cuts to public sector investment in areas such as health care and flood control continue to affect us. There is a housing shortage and the resultant pricing bubble and regional inequality debate.
There is always the conclusion of massive infrastructure projects and discussion of who, what, where and when to build/fund the next ones.
There is mounting evidence that we have messed around with the environment for too long and must take steps to rectify the situation.
Just for fun, there are very public reviews of the offshore ownership structures and tax-filing practices of some well-known global corporations and high net worth individuals.
So — not to bring a black cloud over the summer — but the wider ramifications mean these issues ought be considered and addressed en masse — the question is, by whom? And that takes us into what I think is a genuinely important and relevant debate with regards to property industry associations.
We are incredibly well-represented in the UK by a multitude of industry associations, each with their own acronym, with a tradition of advocacy for their members, active monitoring and research of relevant issues, and where appropriate, lobbying of the appropriate level of government to ensure we have the opportunity to influence policy decisions.
At the top of the food chain is the British Property Federation (BPF), representing the major property owners. The Bank of England also has long-standing commercial and, I think, residential advisory committees that meet regularly to provide the Bank with an industry view on the potential implication of policy changes.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) provides regulation, a code of ethics/conduct, education and continuing professional development, to ensure real estate continues to be recognised as a mainstream institutional asset class for global investors.
And then there’s the Investment Property Forum (IPF), British Council of Offices (BCO) and British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), occupier representative groups including MAPIC and CORENET and then the likes of the City Property Association (CPA), Westminster Property Association (WPA). And that’s before we include the listed company space through the European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA) and the big US based groups ULI and ICSC that are making inroads into Europe.
If my maths (note my proper English) is correct, I count more than a dozen groups above, and am sure I have left out others, who are all individually doing their part in ensuring we are aware of and proactively tackling the issues facing our industry. Personally, I believe it is important that these groups seek to work together more effectively and publicly wherever possible. Companies andindividuals, after all, have limited money and time to go around — it’s tough for every company to fund and resource all of the above groups at the same time, even if they want to.
The creation of the Property Industry Alliance (PIA) is a great example of the relevance, value and importance of collaboration. This alliance needs greater recognition and I’d suggest more groups need to follow this example.
There is a plethora of macro- and micro-issues facing our great industry in the times ahead. I ask for help and collaborative working from our strong representative bodies in ensuring we are as focused and effective as we can be in dealing with these.
Paul Brundage is executive vice-president and senior managing director, Europe, for Oxford Properties