After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown. 

Rob Wilkinson

Rob Wilkinson

European CEO, AEW

The overriding hope has to be that vaccinations will work and we get the pandemic under control. With a more stable geopolitical environment and Brexit deal, 2021 might well turn out to be a strong year for UK real estate.

The pandemic presented significant challenges to retail and hospitality which, for retail, accelerated pre-existing trends.

We need a wholesale change of approach and mind-set to our city centres and high streets. These trends will lead to some of the most dramatic changes to real estate’s physical footprint in our urban landscapes.

This has started to unfold already but will gain pace in 2021 as retail re-prices to a level where massive redevelopment of retail-led schemes can take place. We need to shift our industry’s culture from focusing on the physical aspects of real estate to offering a service and amenities to customers.

This will lead to the emergence of wider mixed-use schemes incorporating residential, leisure, retail and office space.

John Webber

John Webber

Head of business rates, Colliers International

My hope is that the chancellor announces a six-months rates holiday (from 1 April to 30 September) for retail, hospitality and offices, enabling these sectors and businesses time to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

I would also like to see: the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) agree to large scale Covid-19 material change reductions in all affected sectors (backdated to March 2020); the government announce a reduction in the uniform business rate to 30p from 2022; the VOA given £50m to increase its IT capabilities and recruits graduates struggling to find jobs following a 12 month break in recruitment by the private sector; and Billing Authorities and the VOA create a digital solution that means all the information on billing and valuation can be found in one place and paper bills are consigned to history.

My expectation is? Let’s try be positive and say all of the above.

Rick de Blaby Get Living

Rick de Blaby Get Living

Rick De Blaby

CEO, Get Living

I’m confident that 2021 will bring people back to work, to shop and to all our treasured social settings, allowing our town and city centres to recapture their vibrancy.

From an industry perspective, 2021 will see further maturation of build-to-rent as an asset class, as more institutional investors seek to increase their exposure to the sector as a result of its attractiveness and resilience during the pandemic. Operationally, we will see the resident proposition enhance ‘experience’ in all its forms, as community, home working, safety and ambient wellbeing become valued benefits.

ESG considerations will become even more mainstream. Greater adoption of new construction methods will be an economic imperative. My big hope is that 2021 will not be plagued by new infection spikes, repeated restrictions and imposed regulation. We all need to rebuild the considerable national wealth that has been destroyed and create a better, healthier, happier place for the younger generation and their futures.

Sascha Lewin

CEO and founder, W.RE

There is a role for the office, but the way we work will change. Over the past decade we have witnessed significant changes in the London commercial property industry. Sustainability has taken a front-row seat and mixed-use schemes are becoming the city’s lifeblood.

The pandemic has accelerated these trends and it is encouraging to see policy makers and developers working together to react to the changing needs by rejuvenating the high street as part of the post pandemic economic recovery and setting challenging decarbonisation goals.

This year will be a defining one for the office. We will see offices shift from being the only place of work to just one, albeit major, element of the ecosystem of locations we will work from. Better design will lead the way in this revolution. Long rows of desks lining a floor will not be the accepted norm in the future.

However, the office will remain a central place for people to connect, learn and grow for both customers and colleagues. It will still bind teams together in a common endeavour and a shared culture, creating friendships that often form an integral part of an individual’s social infrastructure. The future office will be greener, brighter and more fun. I predict the 2020s to be one of the most innovative and exciting periods in London’s development.

Matt Slade - Quintain

Matt Slade

Retail director, Quintain

The way we live, work, shop and play has changed. Covid didn’t just accelerate trends – it poured concrete into the moulds. This is our challenge just as much as it is our opportunity.

One thing I expect we’ll hear much more about this year is localism. While 2020 was the year we spent a lot more time in our neighbourhoods, 2021 will be the year we actually choose to. We’ll hear more about the 15-minute city; or, as we at Wembley Park call it, ‘Doorstep Living’. We’ve been working to create a vibrant ground floor for the tens of thousands of people who will live at Wembley Park – and the millions who live nearby, with everything you could want or need right outside your front door, from a meal at the likes of Pasta Remoli to the premium fashion brands of London Designer Outlet.

London has always been a city of satellites that is more a collection of villages, towns and high streets than an urban jungle. That will still be the case, and destinations with that local flavour and clear identity will be the ones that thrive – and attract people from down the road.

Continue to part 26 here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope