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  • Doorbellology

    There’s a reason why that hideous new estate they’ve built on the disused asbestos factory site is called Foxes Barn or St Cuthberts Reach. It’s called doorbellology – the science – OK, pseudo-science that tells us that our addresses can influence the value of our properties.

    UNLUCKY13?
    Received wisdom has it that number 13s won’t sell. In the latest Department for Communities and Local Government release of 120,000 house sales, only 1,190 number 13s homes were sold – compared with 2,067 number 12s and 1,854 number 14s. So trying to sell a number 13 is surely a bad bet. But… the average price[1] of a number 13 is nearly £15,700, above the average for a number 12. That’s a 6.2% differential.
    So why are developers building fewer number 13s? The ratio of new build number 13s to 12s has fallen by 12% compared with existing properties. Might some doorbellology improve their profits?

    WHO IS THE PATRON SAINT OF ESTATE AGENTS?
    Actually every saint is. After ‘The’, the most common name of a street where sales occurred (2,040 or 1.7%) started with a saint’s name.
    And saints’ streets are a good bet to live in because a ‘St Something’ address is worth 5% (£13,427) more than the England and Wales median. So while homes in streets with saints names may be more common, they appear also to be in better areas than most for prices.

    The word ‘High’ was the next most common start to a street name. However, this was almost half as less frequent, at 1,096 sales.

    DO NAMES MATTER?
    Well, among the top 5% of streets ranked by their average value, a home on a street named after a girl are worth 2.2% (£16,746) more than ones on those with boys’ names. Once the classical references to Aristotle and Agamemnon are dispensed with, the boys’ names are fewer and, frankly, a bit scratchy such as Waldemar and Onslow.

    When it comes to naming valuable homes, being rustic is the best bet. Names referencing trees or woods are by far the most common in the top 5% sales by price, followed distantly by animals (often birds) and more general rural features.

    Across the value range, having ‘Willow’ at the start of your house name added 0.8% to the median (middle) value compared with the national median. So, short of moving your house to the country, cultivating a tree in the back garden might be a good plan.

    ALWAYS A FOREIGN FIELD?
    Exotic locations may work for house names, but the smart money for the expensive sales are much more likely to be in streets named after more European locations, like Luxemburg (sic), Frankfurt, and especially Spanish or related locations such as Cadiz, Palma and Iberian. Often, the streets are named from the by-jingo School Atlas, like Borneo and Burma, perhaps suggesting that old streets have undergone major regeneration.

    AND THE PICK OF THE NAMES?
    Who can better the home sold called WI-WURRIE.

    After all, it’s just bricks and mortar!

    Derek Long, a director of housing and data consultancy, arc4
    First published in Inside Housing Magazine

    Category: Comment, Housing industry, Property, Arc4 Tags: Housing, house sales, developers, new build, house names
  • Can Cannes?

    MIPIM – remember the acronym. Pronounced Mip-em, Le Marché International des professionnels de l’immobilier held each March in Cannes, is fast becoming a key date for local authorities and social landlords seeking finance for new development.

    But don’t think Harrogate with sand, or Manchester with yachts. With over 20,000 delegates, this focus for investors and developers now rivals the town’s Film Festival for size. Attracting almost 8,000 organisations from 89 countries, the conference is, in reality, the Davos for development.

    So why have bodies from London, Leeds and Liverpool shelled out scarce rents or council taxes to fund the £1,400-a-head tickets? The answer is simple. Capital looking for an asset. With the decline of central government funding, UK councils and LEPs are looking to attract inward investment to transform their economies and housing markets.

    And they are in deadly earnest. If our Easyjet pilot had turned sharp left into the Alpes-Maritimes, the mayor of Liverpool, his chief executive, Liverpool Vision’s head honcho, plus a former member of the Olympic Delivery Authority would have all promptly checked in to the schmoozefest in the sky.

    The lure is 1,600 investors. Dodging the stands proffering Latvian firewater or Portuguese opera singers are men (and they are overwhelmingly men) with cash in search of an asset.
    Britain is an important target (but not a sure thing). The unchained capital takes many forms, from a diamond-Rolexed Indian family wealth fund manager, to a nervous French crowd funder or a major institutional investor.
    The investors are less concerned with tenure and more focused on the bottom line.

    Visitors to our joint Grant Thornton/arc4 stand showed that interest in UK private renting is not just paper talk. So products like ours, which can analyse the private rented market to a forensic degree for investors, developers and local authorities, attracted significant interest.

    Notwithstanding the benign weather, MIPIM was not plain sailing for the UK pitchers. A staggering 544 local authorities were there competing for funding.

    Striking presences by, for example, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, were up against very well heeled contributions from Montreal, St Petersburg, Dubai, Tokyo, Istanbul and Warsaw.

    The US had a large showcase for developing states. And whoever paid to get the key main road outside the Carlton Hotel closed for the evening could give tutorials on how to make a really big impression.

    So can the Cannes property festival supplant conventional routes for development financing? No, It will always be the province for big-city, often signature developments and for the present, substantially London-focused interest.

    However, it is clear that MIPIM-sourced finance will increasingly become a feature of major programmes of social landlords and local authorities’ non-market development across the UK.

    Derek Long, a director of housing and data consultancy, arc4
    First published in Inside Housing Magazine

    Category: Comment, Housing industry, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: Cannes, development, finance, investment, MIPIM
  • Surfing the Third Wave

    Arc4's Senior Consultant Colette Manion shares key discoveries from Australia's new approach to social housing in Inside Housing.

    Australians are known for their surfing prowess. But just recently the country's social landlords have swapped Bondi for the boardroom as they learn how to surf a new wave of social housing policy. A wave propelled by a stance on welfare reform that is sweeping fast through our social sector too.

    Dr Tony Gilmore, CEO of the Australian Housing Action Network, is clear that countries like UK, New Zealand and Australia have now entered a third wave of government support for tenants. The universal provision of the mid-20th Century and the later, more consumer focussed approaches have ebbed and been replaced by a third wave of support, where social housing is required to be ‘step-up’ not a ‘hand-out’.

    The new wave is nowhere more evident than in New South Wales (NSW). (The Australian States play the major role in housing policy.) The ‘Future Directions’ housing policy is a real paradigm shift and has been earmarked as pivotal to changing the face of social housing across NSW forever. The state’s housing Minister, Brad Hazzard's aims are not just to build more affordable housing, but make the housing continuum work better, enable transitions to the private market and reduce welfare dependency.

    The 23,500 new and replacement homes put English housing policy in an interesting contrast (albeit Future Directions is a ten year strategy.) The intention to transfer up to 35% of social housing stock to community housing providers and create mixed communities sounds more 1980s on British shores. There will also be a 60% increase in the use of support to occupy private rented accommodation. (Maybe news of our ballooning bill for private rent support has not reached Sydney yet.)

    However, beneath the shiny spin-doctored headlines lie a chilling distinction. Social tenants are to be divided into a 'safety net group’ whose members will need support in the long term, and the ‘opportunity group’ that can be helped to live an independent life free of welfare subsidies and living in the private market. As Minister Hazzard announced, it will do the children in social housing "good to see their neighbours in private housing going to a job each day”. A sense of the Victorian (and arguably Frank Field's) 'deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor seems to be the ideological driver.

    Yes, perhaps a modest 10 percent of Australian social tenants have a reasonable income or might reasonably be expected to progress to work. But the harsh reality is, even in growing Australia, that for many, there are no suitable local jobs and the private rental market will prove just too expensive.

    Like the Aussie stereotype, their social landlords sound more entrepreneurial. A trait which the Future Directions strategy emphasises by encouraging new multi-faceted ‘vehicles’ that cater to a range of needs from finance to community support, perhaps a trick we have missed? Adopting the more commercial and somewhat market savvier approach Australian to housing could be the new path for many UK housing associations.

    The Australian engagement of Government is different too. Yes, there is a strong market component to what New South Wales is doing. But, there is also an overt commitment to joined up government (and with targets) !

    For example, there is a strong focus on education and employment. Improving the educational performance of social tenants is an overt goal. So interesting measures like trialling changed allocation processes so young people and families with children can be placed in dwellings that are close to better educational and employment opportunities are part of this housing strategy.

    So, as the third wave breaks over UK’s social landlords, maybe we should drawn on the lessons from the champion social housing surfers Down Under!

    During February 2016, Colette was Housing Action Network’s thinker-in-residence, based in New South Wales.

    Category: News, Comment, Housing industry, Social housing Tags: Social housing, arc4, inside housing, affordable housing, Welfare Reform
  • A conference devil’s in the dictionary

    Veteran Conference speaker Derek Long, has drafted “another page from the housing textbook for the University of Life” to help you get through your next conference. “Whether you’ve been caught resting your eyes just too long in the morning plenary or returning from an important break out session in a nearby pub, these are the topics to distract your boss with,” he says.

    SAP RATING:
    The degree to which you believe the government will honour commitments on renewables funding

    BENEFIT CAP:
    A poorly designed item whose headroom shrinks over time

    HANDCART:
    The vehicle that social housing is currently travelling in

    HARROGATE:
    What older housing professionals call Manchester

    EFFICIENCY SAVINGS:
    Cuts

    CUTS:
    An ill-considered reduction in your budget

    SAVINGS:
    The judicious reallocation of your colleagues’ under-used resources

    THE PUBLIC SECTOR:
    Whatever the prime minister says it is today

    COUNCIL HOUSING:
    What housing associations hope the TV reporter calls their stock after a gas explosion

    ALMO
    A trial separation (see also The Crimea)

    AWAYDAY:
    An event with an overnight stay in an expensive hotel so the chief executive can get to grips with … a colleague. (Derived from the original phrase Have it Awayday)
    NB Awaydays often result in ALMOs

    NOVATE:
    To downgrade the chief executive’s lease car deal from a Jaguar to a Vauxhall

    RENOVATE:
    To replace the chief executive’s lease car with a bicycle allowance

    PEAK DEBT:
    A statement incomprehensible to modern students

    STAKEHOLDERS:
    Colleagues who are always ready to hammer their points home (See Dr Van Helsing)

    BOILER REPLACEMENT PROGRAMME:
    A male chauvinist chief executive’s solution to his mid-life crisis
    NB Boiler replacement always results in an ALMO

    CONVEYANCING:
    The act of transfering a valuable commodity – i.e. money – to your solicitors

    VALUE FOR MONEY CONSULTANT:
    A person who borrows your watch to tell you the time … and then recommends you buy a new watch, but more cheaply.

    Category: Comment, Housing industry, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: Cuts, Housing, Welfare Reform, Council Housing, Public Sector, Benefits
  • When is a traveller not a traveller?

    As the echoes from Black Rod’s knocks on the Commons’ door at the opening of Parliament fade away, American tourists are about to be treated to another great British political tradition. One which is almost as venerable – the Passing of the Hot Potato.

    No one is quite sure when this practice started, but for generations, as an election looms, successive Secretaries of State at DCLG have pushed less appetising political morsels to the back of their plate for their successors to chew over. Airports, HS2s, awkward planning applications for fracking badgers, all tended to slip to the bottom of the red box to await the inevitable reshuffle. Such has been the fate of DCLG’s consultation on proposed changes to planning policy and guidance relating to gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople.

    The consultation period ended on the 23rd November and students of Sir Eric Pickles’ 2010 Week One intervention into planning policy might have expected a Conservative-vote winning pronouncement in the run up to the election. That a decision has fallen to his successor may point to some major issues which will be a challenge for council planners and housing strategists – and not just in the arena of gypsies and travellers.

    CLG’s consultation sought to remove travellers who had settled permanently from the statutory definitions of “gypsies and travellers” and “travelling showpeople”. In essence, if you don’t travel, you can’t be a traveller. The confusion between culture and behaviour is one for the sociologists. But the logistical challenges for local authorities to obtain legally robust definitions of need are jaw-dropping.

    How can one prove someone has been travelling when they are not in your local authority ? How effective will projections of demand for pitches be, if there is a large reservoir of potential travellers impermanently “settled”?

    The pressure for officers to get the supply of pitches spot on will increase if CLG’s aspirations to strengthen limitations on new sites in “open countryside” are agreed. This is all the more important as loopholes over sites within Green Belt and Areas of Natural Beauty are to be sealed.

    If pitch supply fails to match demand, unauthorised encampments will increase – but under the consultation, meeting such unauthorised demand with permanent sites will be more difficult because “intentional unauthorised occupation” will be regarded as “a material consideration that weighs against the grant of permission". The creation of such Catch 22 situations will only create more uncertainty for officers trying to implement the law.

    Unless all these uncertainties are resolved, our advice to help local authorities is simple.

    1.  Make sure your assessments are up to date.

    2.  Use good consultants who have good communication channels with communities that can adapt to different local conditions

    3.  Keep good records – you’ll need them ! Robust evidence covering a range of issues about permanent sites and unauthorised encampments will put you in a strong position

    Overall, CLG’s response to the consultation has wider implications for planning and housing strategies. For example, the lack of an up-to-date supply of deliverable sites being downgraded from a significant material consideration to just a material one for temporary permission may well spread into other areas where housing supply is contested. Whatever the basis for Greg Clark’s recent decision to call in Maldon District’s development plan, the implications may be far-reaching. How such precedents play out for other aspects of social housing could leave officers in a planning no man’s land.

    So beware! A hot potato may be landing on your desk any day now.

    Category: Comment, Housing industry Tags: Travellers, Gypsies, Housing

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