DAY TWO: If day one of RESI highlighted Diversity in the industry, day two was all about Debate and Delivery, with no less than two Question Time-style sessions on the housing crisis

Back DAY TWO: If day one of RESI highlighted Diversity in the industry, day two was all about Debate and Delivery, with no less than two Question Time-style sessions on the housing crisis

In his opening remarks, BBC Home editor Mark Easton promised a “full bodied gym session for the mind, and a spa session for the soul” and the packed programme did not disappoint.

Delegates were welcomed with a thorough overview of the market by Lucian Cook and Lawrence Bowles from Savills. Covering everything from Brexit to Build-to-Rent, the data-driven duo brought back memories of this summer's World Cup with a dream team of housing ministers, hoping that keynote speaker Kit Malthouse could be the “Harry Kane of housing ministers.” This was followed by the first RESI Question Time asking ‘why are we no closer to solving the housing crisis?’.

True to form, Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley sparred with London deputy mayor for housing and residential development James Murray on red tape in the planning system, while all the panellists fielded questions from the audience.

As many delegates grabbed an extra cup of coffee in the first break of the day, attendees could listen to the first wave of Proptech streams, which covered everything from energy to finance. 

Build-to-Rent took the centre stage next, with the session focused on how developers, investors and operators can do more to understand what customers want as the sector continues to mature. Michela Hancock, development director at Greystar, stressed the importance of spending time at your building, listening to operators and customers in order to understand what they really want, and how the buildings are used. Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda, summed up the mood of the room when he stated that he loves BTR because of the sector’s collaborative approach. “We all want to see BTR do well” he concluded.

There were then the first round of specialist ‘master-class’ break-out sessions, which spanned land and planning, SMEs and finance and construction and delivery before everyone headed off for food.

After lunch came Kit Malthouse’s much anticipated keynote address. The new housing minister gave his first speech directly to the property industry, and repeatedly offered for every delegate to come to him with their ideas, as he revealed the mandate given to him by the Prime Minister was “more, better, faster.”

Despite a RESI poll finding that 93% of attendees thought that the government will not meet its goal of 300,000 new homes by 2025, Malthouse maintained his positive outlook, arguing that the industry had come a long way in recent years, and that the target could be met by engaging with innovative thinking, warning delegates not to become the ‘Kodak of property’.

The theme of innovation carried on over into the next session, with a panel debate on Modern Methods of Construction and Offsite Techniques. While the opening video of happy Urban Splash customers struck an optimistic tone, the first audience poll hit a more cautious note by suggesting modular would only play a “moderate” role in housing delivery. Sarah Davies of Pocket Living in particular made a strong case to believe otherwise but the final poll showed the audience still remained sceptical.

BTR took centre stage once again, this time with panellists looking into the nitty gritty of operations, before delegates took yet another well deserved break and then shot off to the second round of break out event. Covering everything from wellness and regeneration to borrowing and lending, if the #RESIcon Twitter feed was anything to judge by, it seemed attendees got a lot of value from these ‘delivery in focus’ sessions.

With many commenting on the younger faces at this year’s RESI, the future-gazing talk by Maria Brenton of the Cohousing Trust felt quite literal. While most in the room would have no doubt putting cohousing as a tenure option firmly for millennials, Maria made very clear that people of all ages can enjoy the benefits of communal living, and given the UK’s demographic trajectory, it could play a real role in providing housing options for the elderly.

The last session was another Question Time-style debate, this time on solutions to the housing crisis rather than the causes. Somewhat unsurprisingly there was a sense of pessimism in the room, with the majority of the audience fearing Brexit will only deepen Britain’s housing woes. Robert Evans of Argent suspected we would get a deal but was concerned about the flow of labour and materials. Adding to the theme of innovation that had been running as an undercurrent throughout the day, Metropolitan CEO Geeta Nanda said the sector needed to get a better grip on tech if we were to remain relevant.

Delegates were then treated to drinks and canapés before heading to the gala dinner.The #RESIhackathon winners were revealed, runners up Healthy Home (Kylie, Joshua, Matthew, Kranthi, Paul and Matt)  who created a Michelin guide of health and safety enabling tenants to find properties with a high rating. First place prize winners were Lifecycle (Anthony, Matt, Robert, Vitali and Michelle) who turned renting into a form of investment by creating a sense of ownership and allowing a new definition of Buy-to-Rent. 

Joint Victories winners were also announced, congratulations to the two winners - The Scene Hill, Waltham Forest Council and Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association and to Slough Urban Renewal, Morgan Sindall Investments and Slough Borough Council.  

No doubt many gave generously to this year’s charity CRASH. A pub quiz hosted by Mock the Week’s Ed Gamble then tested the sector’s knowledge on issues outside property, with the top team (announced this morning) securing platinum passes for next year’s RESI.

Neil McKenzie, Blackstock

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