There has been plenty of talk of the slowdown in foreign investment in UK property, particularly the capital’s prime residential market, but if proof were needed that for every country that backs off, there’s another waiting to get back in - look no further than Iran, whose pent-up demand post sanctions could lead to a £5bn investment bonanza for the UK.
Whether the window of opportunity will be open long enough for Iranians to capitalise to anywhere near that extent remains to be seen, but you can be sure the negotiations have started, and this time investors may well be looking beyond their old stomping ground of London to the regions, where another revolution is under way.
Property markets are going from strength to strength in the regions, and if, as expected, devolution deals in the Bristol and Leeds areas are announced in George Osborne’s March Budget, they will get a further boost. But is this really such good news for the country or, more specifically, the countryside? While city regions are gaining one devolution deal after another, those in the countryside remain dependent on central government. Sure, Cornwall got something akin to devolution last year, but it has nothing like the fundraising powers given to major urban areas such as Manchester, Merseyside, the West Midlands and now Bristol and Leeds. A revolution of a less positive sort could be on the cards if these rural communities are not empowered in the same way as their urban counterparts.
Not that it’s all bread and roses in the capital at the moment, particularly on the affordable housing front. Paradoxically, the more solutions mooted to the housing crisis, the more intractable the issue seems to become. Speaking to Property Week, Boris Johnson acknowledged as much when he lambasted “draconian” affordable housing targets and called for a more flexible approach.
The problem is we haven’t moved on from the drawing-board stage yet, much less started a housing revolution. Despite promises from the build-to-rent brigade - the latest coming from Legal & General Capital and Dutch pension fund PGGM, which have launched a £600m fund to build 3,000 build-to-rent homes (seeded with three sites, one of which is in Walthamstow) - there’s still far more talk than walk. Meanwhile, the London Land Commission’s first comprehensive register of public land in London, listing 40,000 sites with the capacity to deliver 130,000 homes plus, may well be a welcome new tool for developers, but will it translate into even a fraction of this promised supply when push comes to shove?
A fond farewell
One would-be first-time buyer who’ll be hoping it does is our very own Rhiannon Bury. It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to our brilliant news editor and wish her the best of luck in her new role as business reporter at The Telegraph. But don’t worry, you haven’t seen the back of her completely. She has agreed to write a column for us, so watch this space… or more accurately, the one over the page!