Posted by: Adam Roake | January 31, 2009


I went to the above last Thursday. 


Two main impressions.  Firstly, David Cowan CEO of Places for People was easily the most impressive performer.


His company take the view that you’ve got to do it yourself if you want it done properly.  So they don’t just provide affordable housing, they develop sustainable communities – they source the land, deal with the planning and deliver houses, schools, surgeries, shops, offices – everything necessary for a community to function.  That’s his story anyway and it makes some sense.


Secondly when I asked the question, where the power lies in development, David knew it’s with whoever owns the land.  I know this coming from a land development company but for a lot of people in the public sector, in particular development control and social housing, this seems like a difficult concept.  But think about it.


·         If you don’t own the land, you can’t force whoever does to bring it forward for development – you can ask them but at the end of the day if they don’t it won’t happen, whatever it is that you want.


·         On the other hand if you do own the land and you want something to happen – you hold the whip hand when it comes to getting your way – provided you’re not grossly interfering with other people’s rights you can usually get close to what you want.


So take a leaf out of Ken Livingston’s books.  He decided new housing in London would include 50% affordable housing.  All the house builders complained like crazy but he stood firm so they just got on with it.  Of course they did, because ultimately it was just another cost to go into their financially-based business model so it really was no big deal.  Basically so long as a mainstream developer knows what he’s got to pay, he can factor it in to his financial model – until of course the costs outweigh the revenue and then we’ve all got a problem.


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