At the beginning of a new year and decade, property’s leading lights reveal their hopes, expectations and resolutions for 2020 in the second of a two-part special.
Last year, flexible office space flourished and my hope for 2020 is that this sector continues that trajectory and is recognised for the value it brings to SMEs and start-ups looking for a home perfectly suited to their business. WeWork has made strides in raising awareness about this type of flexible workspace offering, but an office search engine such as Spacepool will be able to shed light on the independent workspace out there, of which there is plenty in London and beyond.
With the Conservatives now having a clear mandate on Brexit, I expect renewed confidence across the board. Small businesses especially want a combination of security and flexibility, which I think will be key in 2020 as people don’t want to be locked into long-term leases: they want the freedom to choose and move in line with their needs. If, as a sector, we can offer that certainty, Britain’s commercial sector will flourish.
Resolutions: To make Spacepool the go-to platform for businesses to find workspace. Technology is now vital in enabling businesses to connect with workspaces best suited to their needs. In a noisy marketplace, a simple product such as a workspace search tool helps modernise a sector that lags behind others in the uptake of technology. The industry needs to keep up with its peers and being part of that conversation is key for us in 2020.
Founder, Solomon New Homes
I would hope that 2020 brings a new fluidity and energy to the property market and that more people will put into action the plans they’ve been sitting on for 12 months or more.
I also hope we see more movement on big projects such as HS2. The prime minister spoke of repaying the trust that northern constituencies had shown the new government, so I hope that translates into real progress on schemes that support a more even, nationwide distribution of economic activity and growth.
There is immense potential in tertiary investment destinations in the Midlands and the north, and projects like HS2 could be instrumental in maximising their value.
I expect to see more energy in the post-election housing market, with buyers taking more interest in Britain’s tertiary markets. Cities like Birmingham and Manchester have attracted most of the headlines in recent years, but now I expect attention to start shifting towards their smaller near neighbours – Wolverhampton, Bolton and Preston, for example. As prices rise in the honeypot cities, buyers inevitably start to wonder if they can get better value elsewhere.
Likewise, for investors, rising prices make it harder to achieve really good yields. But look to the smaller surrounding cities and average values are lower, yields are better and the prospects for capital growth are often excellent.
In cities like these, a lot of new growth is being driven by big investment in future-proofed, knowledge-based industries, so I’d also expect to see rising demand for smaller but higher-quality property – the sort that appeals to young but skilled and relatively well-paid workers.
Resolutions: To do everything possible to give homebuyers and investors more confidence in the property market. In recent years, it’s been characterised by too much uncertainty but I think that’s set to change.
I want 2020 to be the year when buyers see a clear path ahead. We’re resolved to helping them find that path, showing them how mechanisms like fixed-rate mortgages and rental assurance schemes can help them to plan with confidence and keep uncertainty to an absolute minimum.
Sustainability partner, Cundall
For me, 2020 is the ‘year of net-zero carbon’, so my hope is that the industry can come to a quick consensus on what a net-zero-carbon building is and agree on a roadmap for how to achieve it in all new and existing buildings.
It should include whole-life carbon and focus on reducing upfront emissions from construction materials and activities, while setting hard intensity targets for each element.
With the Building Regulations and Planning requirements driving the body of the industry forward, I expect this to be resolved for new developments early in the year.
The bigger challenge will be how to achieve net zero in existing buildings. We now have less than 30 years to deep-retrofit 28 million homes and millions of square metres of existing offices, schools and healthcare buildings if we are to meet the 2050 net-zero-carbon targets. How we release the finance to achieve this is likely to be the greatest challenge.
In the second half of 2019, we saw more industry action around sustainability than in the whole preceding decade, so I expect things to continue to accelerate in 2020.
Other themes such as climate resilience, eliminating waste, the circular economy, net biodiversity gains and increasing social value are also coming to the fore, so I expect we will also see more organisations mapping their impacts against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) moving forward.
This will be driven from above by investors as more funds require building owners to report against the Task Force for Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) and UN SDG requirements. There will also be pressure from below as employees hold their organisations to account.
Resolutions: Key to achieving net-zero-carbon and these other environmental aspirations will be a greater level of collaboration across the industry.
Professionally, I will help achieve this through my roles on the UK Green Building Council members committee, CIBSE Knowledge committee and BCO Sustainability committee.
Personally, I am also reconfiguring a 1930s semi-detached house this year and aim to practise what I preach as much as possible and get first-hand experience of the challenges associated with achieving net-zero-carbon.
2020 vision: predictions for the year ahead
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2020 vision: predictions for the year ahead (part 15)