After a scenic train journey across the Gloucestershire hills, I arrived at Celtic Manor for RESI on Monday evening just in time for the “waifs and strays” supper.
It was a great turnout of developers, agents, consultants, designers and other industry professionals and a chance to catch up with old friends before the conference.
To say that it has been a tumultuous 12 months in the property industry is an understatement and there were certainly some challenging topics to address, which this year’s RESI confronted head on with an impressive line-up of speakers and panellists.
Many of the focus sessions considered the most monumental of challenges faced by the housing sector - how we overcome the ever-increasing supply and demand imbalance.
The crucial role that SMEs must play in alleviating this was a priority topic. We heard from a range of panellists that SMEs frequently feel overlooked by local housing authorities.
This was an important reminder that, while major housebuilding operators continue to be hugely influential, SMEs have an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of new homes.
Smaller developers must be encouraged by local authorities and, crucially, funding bodies to continue operating in the mainstream housing sector, building schemes on smaller chunks of land that can be delivered faster than large, mixed-use developments.
So how can we unlock the full potential of SMEs? Unsurprisingly, the need for streamlined, flexible planning processes was high on the agenda, allowing forspeedier delivery of housing. Additionally, SMEs were encouraged to engage with the local communities in which they operate as much as possible, buildingstrong relationships with local authorities and councils.
Standout speakers for me were Residential Land’s Bruce Ritchie and Berkeley’s Tony Pidgley, both of whom gave balanced yet throught-provoking arguments throughout their panel discussion. Michela Hancock of Greystar, meanwhile, gave us a fascinating insight in to the build-to-rent philosophy and the future of PRS.
The key underlying messages were the same: momentum must not be lost and operators must focus on delivering high-quality stock with the facilities that modern tenants require.
Finally, friends and colleagues who attended the final feast at RESI will remember (or perhaps not, as the case may be!) my personal highlight of this year’s conference: the 200-strong midnight rendition of Hey Jude.
What really stood out for me at this year’s RESI was the need for innovative, visionary and often challenging ideas about how we can drive the UK housing sector.
We must continue to strive to find new ways to navigate the many obstacles the property industry faces. That could mean launching transport and infrastructure initiatives to unlock pockets of development-ready land, or it could mean finding ways to create a closer alignment between schools, colleges and construction firms to ensure that construction remains an attractive career prospect in an industry that still suffers from a severe shortage of skilled workers.
Mark Collins is the UK chairman of CBRE Residential