Plenty of people will be raising a glass of bubbly on Monday as we reach the first significant milestone on the roadmap out of lockdown. Some, however, will have bubbles of a different sort on their minds.

Liz Hamson leader

It is bizarre to be reporting in the same issue both on the cladding crisis and on a sector so hot it is veering into bubble territory, but that’s the strange world we find ourselves in.

While life is hell for some, it is heaven for others, notably the industrial & logistics sector, where average yields have hit a record low of 3.75%. The question now is: how much lower can they go and if the market is in a bubble, when will it burst?

Even some sectors that have been hit hard by Covid, such as purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), are going gangbusters again. Talk of a PBSA bubble may be premature, but it is not often we report on three sector debuts in a week: by Lone Star, Aventicum and Patron Capital.

While these involve new capital, there are also well-known players looking for opportunities – Scape, via its new UK JV with APG, for one.

It is no surprise they are piling in. Lucky students, too. They have never had it so good. They are in for a shock when they leave university, though, and not just in terms of housing. Little do many realise that they will be stepping into a world that is nowhere near as equal opportunity – particularly the defiantly pale, male and stale arena of property.

I can sense the outrage now. Here she goes again. How dare she? Hasn’t she seen the progress the industry has made?

Well, yes… and no. Yes, in that there has been an extraordinary changing of the guard over the past year as some of the top jobs have been taken by women and people from ethnic backgrounds. No, in that few of the new appointments tick more than one diversity box, and the industry is way off a tipping point.

Indeed, thanks to Covid, it may be going backwards in one area. Only two in seven of the top agencies we contacted had reported their gender pay gap data by the original deadline of 4 April. One of those, JLL, admitted its pay gap had increased marginally to 21.9%.

At least it reported. Also to its credit is its appointment of Stephanie Hyde to the top job, which she started this week. But if its pay gap is an indication of what we can expect from others, this is not good enough.

Covid is not an acceptable excuse (regardless of how many women went on furlough). Nor is it a defence to argue that the gap reflects the tendency for women to be in more junior roles than men. Why is that exactly and what about those who are not? Are they paid the same as their male counterparts?

Hyde has her work cut out, as does the wider industry. I am still treated by some in property (mostly, but not exclusively, men) as a second-class citizen, thanks to the seemingly toxic combination of being female, mixed-race and state-school educated (they don’t much like that I went to Cambridge either – not entitled).

It doesn’t bother me any more. Don’t expect young people who are starting out in their careers to be anywhere near as forgiving.

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