Back RESI roundup, Day 1: Welcome to The Age of Responsibility
Mark Easton, Home Editor at BBC and chair of RESI convention 2021 kicked off by introducing the conference and outlining some of the key themes for The Age of Responsibility.
RESI XTRA partners Anastasia Gorokhova and Alexandra Gower Partners at Osborne Clarke then began the discussions by presenting the developing trends within the residential sector, and the inevitable repercussions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The morning continued with a discussion on creating both social and investor value in affordable housing with Jamie Kellett, Director, BMO Real Estate Partners.
This was followed by another insightful RESI XTRA session on creating value through suburban Build to Rent with Richard Jackson, founding Partner and Managing Director, Apache Capital Partners. The session explored the benefits for investors, local community and residents, in the wake of the pandemic. “ESG is embedded in everything that we do,” Richard said, and outlined the ways in which Apache’s Present Made brand are seeking to create a new style of sustainable single-family rental living.
After lunch and a networking session, Felicite Moorman, Co-Founder of Stratis IoT a RealPage Company and Mandisa Khabo, Technical Development Manager at Greystar led an interactive session on digital transformation and smart technology. The session allowed delegates to explore the extensive range of smart technology available to developers, and the ways in which they can greatly improve the lives of residents. Felicite and Mandisa used Greystar’s Chapter II in north London as an example of how smart technology has been used to improve the resident experience, capitalise on staff efficiencies and improve energy sustainability.
This was followed by an insightful presentation from Timothy Bannister, Director of Property Data at Rightmove who talked us through the UK’s housing market consumer demand trends. The pandemic has meant “our relationships with our homes have changed”, Tim stated and that we had to “make our homes work for us more than we have for many years.” This inevitably led to a lot of change for most people, and Tim presented key data on the changing demands for city vs suburban living. While Tim offered data that overwhelmingly supported the idea that people wanted to leave cities in search of more space and greenery, ultimately the data was very nuanced and varied depending on location. Nevertheless, things remain very reactive, he concluded, “yet while there is lots of demand, we know there is not enough stock”.
Mark Easton then hosted a panel discussion quizzing Félicie Krikler, Director, Assael Architecture, Thomasin Renshaw, Development Director, Pocket Living and Lucy Miller Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement, Buro Happold on developing diversity & inclusion confidence in organisations.
The speakers had all made D&I a priority within their organisations, and highlighted the measures they have put in place, from creating discussion groups to partnering with schools, to implementing mentorship schemes. While each company is embarking on a range of initiatives, all agreed there was a long way to go. As Félicie from Assael put it, “a key driver to enabling this change will be ensure we keep the conversation going about the importance of improving diversity and how we can further improve our efforts”.
The day concluded with a hot seat interview with David Partridge, President of the BPF and Chairman of Argent Related. David initially outlined the state of the residential property sector as we emerge from Covid restrictions, and expressed his hope that we don’t completely go back to how things were. The latter “would be a great shame” he said, as this has been a key “opportunity to learn lessons and progress”.
The challenges lie within creating social value whilst demonstrating best-practice sustainability, but ultimately producing financial value for investors. Diversity, however, is key and David stressed the importance of a workforce that reflects those who will exist in a development, and that you need to truly embed yourself in a place before building in it. “We have a mission to become one of the greatest city builders in the world, now it’s about creating the team that are the best people to demonstrate this. It’s about getting the skills and the different points of view in a room”, he said. In terms of community, David believes the first step, before even putting a spade in the ground, is getting involved directly. “If you can’t see the vision for a new community hub, how do you expect the consumers to engage with that?”.
Anna Beketov, Account Manager, Blackstock