It’s all very well Mark Farmer warning in his review of the UK construction labour model that the construction industry needs to “modernise or die” - but should he really be putting the onus on property developers to, in his own words, “bail it out”?
The Cast CEO has controversially called for housebuilders and developers to pay the industry equivalent of a “carrier-bag tax”, or up to 0.5% of construction value, if they don’t help drive innovation in the construction industry.
Er, pardon? That sounds to me more like an edict to developers to “modernise [the construction industry] or pay” than one to the construction industry to get its act together.
Surely the financial responsibility for innovation in the construction industry lies with, umm, the construction industry.
Maybe Farmer thinks 0.5% is as paltry an outlay for developers as a few 5p or 10p bags are for consumers.
As I’m sure they will be vociferously pointing out, it is far from it when you’re talking about schemes of any scale. Moreover, they can’t simply bring their own ‘carrier bag’ innovation with them from ‘home’ to avoid paying - innovation in construction is a very different beast.
Farmer’s argument is that the construction industry is ‘not in a position’ to help itself. But I don’t think it is overstating matters to say that the property industry may not be in a position itself to help if the additional levy drives development to the brink of unviability, which it could well do when you add it to all the other levies it gets clobbered with.
The upshot is that developers will have no choice but to help innovate. Fortunately, they’re a resourceful bunch and if the powers that be understand that this needs to be done in collaboration with the construction industry rather than seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card for the declining industry, then it might just work - alleviating in one fell swoop both the construction and related housing crisis.
Housing was, unsurprisingly, also high on the agenda on the first day of Mipim UK - higher than Brexit, apparently - and not just for delegates.
Just before Property Week’s Adam Branson chaired a panel on student housing, he was called in for a special security briefing. Intelligence had been received that protesters from the NUS and a housing lobby group were planning to protest during his session.
Their beef was affordability, but as the panellists pointed out, if investors can’t make decent returns they will invest elsewhere and we will be left with crap old stock that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs.
They also noted that institutions were now investing in stock over an array of price points, not just the high end. It seemed to shush the crowd: the panel was not even subjected to one hostile question from the floor.Pragmatism prevailed then, as it did in what debate there was over Brexit.
Terra Firma’s Guy Hands summed matters up neatly when he said the EU would make sure we only had the option of a ‘hard exit’, so we should just deal with it and move on. A nice idea… easier said than done, of course.
— Samuel Horti (@SamuelHortiPW) October 19, 2016