Fears are mounting that the property market is careening out of control and heading for a crash.
But as I said in my speech at the 21st Property Awards this Tuesday (for those not there… or not listening, tsk tsk), while UK investment volumes fell by an alarming third in the first quarter, we have the four-wheel drives to handle the hazardous terrain before us – and even if there is a crash, it doesn’t necessarily follow that there will be fatalities.
The industry is very much alive – if not in rude health – and it was great to celebrate its achievements at what feels like a pivotal moment, as we look back over a strong 2015 and ahead to an uncertain future.
However, as the small but vocal minority protesting outside Grosvenor House with their ‘Evict the rich’ and ‘All landlords are bastards’ placards proved, not everyone agrees.
I don’t want to give them the oxygen of publicity, but I will play devil’s advocate and suggest one reason they feel they can protest with impunity is that the industry has opened the door and rolled out the red carpet for them.
For all the talk of a new generation of disruptors propelling property into a brave new world where diversity, creativity and entrepreneurialism are the norm, that is simply not what people see.
Let’s not delude ourselves otherwise: the industry has a serious image problem.
Witness Private Eye’s attack on the “booze and hooker-fest” of Mipim and the Panama Papers scandal, which has painted the industry as an amoral beast that tacitly endorses money laundering.
These criticisms cannot be brushed under the carpet. The industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself. It needs to be clear about the critical role it plays in the UK economy and start engaging with government and the public.
More importantly, it needs to start communicating the inspirational work it is doing – to address the housing crisis, reinvent the workplace and deliver ground-breaking regeneration and placemaking projects.
At the awards, we recognised those at the vanguard of this transformative work.
This year we launched two new awards: one to celebrate the new disruptors, for Proptech Company of the Year, sponsored by Brockton Capital and won by Appear Here; and the other to acknowledge the original disruptors, our Hall of Fame, sponsored by James Andrew International. Industry legends Tony Pidgley, Irvine Sellar and Sir Stuart Lipton were the worthy inductees.
We should take heart from the fact that both demographics are at the wheel as we attempt to navigate the hazards of the London mayoral election, EU referendum (I won’t use the B word because it’s leading), London’s flatlining prime resi market and global instability. Their superior driving skills will be critical.
Zac vs Sadiq
On the plus side, some of the uncertainty will hopefully dissipate after the mayoral election on 5 May.
Join housing experts from BNP Paribas Real Estate and journalists from Property Week to debate the key housing issues … in 140 characters.