”Seeing what your competitors do well can teach you about your business. Their practices will provide you with valuable insight into the state of the market, and help show you what works – and what doesn’t.”
As we’ve already discussed the housing market is restricted to only a few traditional products and services, it is maintained by companies, firms, agents who have little drive to deliver innovation or offer alternatives and is underpinned by a financial and insurance sector reluctant to enable change or development. With that somewhat damning conclusion already compiled it is difficult to see how any of these actants in the field might compare themselves to their competitors to gain any valuable insight. The practices observed would likely only serve to galvanise the existing system and further hold onto the industry.
So, doom and gloom, what can be done? A pessimist will say that’s it, there is nothing anyone can do. A cynic will claim that surely something could be done, but it won’t happen because there is too much investment in the existing system to see any real change. A sceptic will think that this is yet another conspiracy theory that seeks to make us think that we don’t have the control we think we should in our democracy. An optimist will look at all the innovative schemes being presented by designers, architects, free-thinkers, activists and writers who have presented ideas and concepts – some of which have become reality for a while – and see them as signs of hope. A pragmatist might analyse some of these options and argue how they might fit into the existing system somehow, somehow shoe-horning finance, policy andconstruction issues into the shiny-black shoe of the status quo. I’m sure there are many more positions I could set out, where do I sit though? I sit somewhere between the pessimist and the pragmatist. As an Architect I choose to innovate and design, I expect and welcome change and I hope for good results. As an introvert thinker I despair that we live in a country with such heavily engrained systems that changing anything as fundamental and primary as housing is a mountain too high. I do however have a tendency to be git. That is, I have a tendency to be a little like a dog with a bone, once I’ve started working on something I don’t like to let it go. I want to find a way to begin changing the way we design, finance, build and live in our housing, I want to challenge the market.
So I started out looking at the inextricable rise in the cost of housing in the South East of the UK, by looking at the fundamental ideas behind our capitalist approach to the housing market it’s clear that there are several findings that come out of that.
1 – The housing industry requires a fundamental overhaul; from it’s under-pinning finance, means of delivery, practical outcomes and methods of maintenance. Unless alternative options become widely available and well supported by the financial and insurance sector the existing system will continue to increase in it’s rigidity and top down approach to access.
2 – The housing market is the main driver for our economy being in ‘growth’. Our entire economy is being lauded on the activity of a sector that is tightly controlled, uncompetitive, un-innovative and forcing people into insecure housing situations and in some cases poverty. When set against the financial backdrop of the constantly rising price of energy, fuel, food, transport and the stagnation in the rise in wages amongst the majority of the population the economic picture becomes less rosy and more rose-tinted.
3 – The existing housing market is designed to maximise profits, not prioritise people. As a result the systems in place seek to inflate prices wherever possible and restrict any such instabilities such as competition or innovation which tend to cause prices of conventional options to fall to maintain their position in the market. Clearly this is not so much a free market as a carefully controlled market, and one which through it’s methodology and practices demonstrates that when it comes to housing in the UK people are not the priority, profit is.
So what comes next? Let me tell you what I am working on in my home city of Brighton. It’s probably better if I cover it in more detail in another post however the headlines are:
- City-wide Community Land Trust that ‘looks after’ Local Authority land in perpetuity for community benefit. This is arranged through peppercorn leaseholds, gifting or sale at ‘best consideration’ utilising quality of life and offsetting other costs as value rather than just money.
- Land trust acts as interface between communities and the Local Authority to enable appropriate and beneficial development of that land for said communities rather than the usual profit led approach to development.
- Land costs are eliminated from housing development equation enabling genuinely affordable homes to be built with mutual finance options available
- Any housing is protected from the open market through the Land Trust ensuring that the homes remain affordable with prices (both purchase or rental options) pegged to local wages rather than perceived market value / estate agent’s whims.
- Utilisation of local contractors and provision of on the job training / apprenticeships to benefit local people, the local economy and the local employment market.
- Lower housing costs results in greater expendable income which again ultimately benefits the local economy ensuring higher quality of life for more than just those who live in the CLT developments.
These are only headlines, there is A LOT of detail to still work out but if you have any questions please ask them on twitter : @bahclt or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org