As we count down to RESI 2019, it’s useful to reflect that a lot can happen in housing in a year.

Susan Freeman

It comes as no surprise that we have yet another new housing minister in Esther McVey, the 18th since 2000. Last year, we heard from then new housing minister Kit Malthouse, just six weeks into the role, challenging us not to become the “Kodak of the housebuilding industry”.

He exhorted the sector to be more ambitious, to innovate and, using his strap line, to build “more, better, faster” to achieve the government’s 300,000 annual housing target. Speaking at the subsequent Conservative Party Conference, Malthouse mentioned his appearance at RESI and his disappointment at the perceived lack of response from the audience.

The Sekisui House deal, announced in May, must have been music to Malthouse’s ears. Sekisui, a pioneer in modern methods of construction, had chosen to invest in the UK. The £90m deal, involving a £55m investment in developer Urban Splash and funding from Homes England, provides a real boost to the UK’s nascent modular housing industry, injecting valuable know-how from Japan.

In June, the government announced its historic climate change commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. For housing, this provides a huge challenge both in retrofitting existing homes and using sustainable building techniques to create zero-carbon homes.

Moda - Broad Street Frontage

With my interest in all things proptech, I’m delighted to be judging the #RESIHackathon again. This year, we will be finding tech solutions to assist the elderly. This poses the challenge of devising tech that the non-tech-savvy can master. It’s a well-timed initiative as we face up to the demographic time bomb of our ageing population: 18.2% of the UK population were aged 65 years or over in 2017, compared with 15.9% in 2007. This is projected to grow to 20.7% by 2027.

Elsewhere, BTR continues to grow. Savills recently reported the number of new UK BTR units completed, under construction or in planning was 143,000, a 17% annual increase. There has also been growing interest from mainstream institutional investment such as Goldman Sachs’ backing of Moda’s Broad Street scheme in Birmingham (pictured).

This year has also seen the launch of Savannah de Savary’s new platform Give-My-View, a tech response to developers’ struggle with community engagement. It can be used to vote on key aspects of a development scheme. Clients already include Grosvenor and First Base and councils such as RBKC and the City of London.

After the success of last year’s Trailblazers, another cohort of innovators will be keen to address the challenges facing residential and to further demonstrate that the sector is both ambitious and innovative.

Having risen to the Malthouse challenge, with some key strides just in the last year, the mixed-use theme of RESI 2019 will encourage us to progress further, taking inspiration from other sectors.

Susan Freeman is partner at Mishcon de Reya