In this week’s Natter I’m going to get all political. Don’t worry, I won’t be giving my opinions on Brexit, Trump or the mounting tension between the West and North Korea (in the latter case, can the adults come along and please tell the children to stop playing silly games with dangerous weapons!?)
Instead, I’m here to cast an eye on the upcoming party conference season. Each year, the main UK political parties hold conferences to decide on new policies, set out grand plans and pretend to show a united front as the skulduggery and backstabbing goes on in the background. This year, there is more than ever to discuss – with the shock result at the general election throwing Theresa May’s government into chaos and emboldening Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. In amidst all this, there is the long and complicated process of withdrawing from the EU (negotiations are taking place as we speak), with everyone seemingly wanting something slightly different.
The two main parties are the furthest apart they’ve been – in terms of personnel, policy and outlook – for a very long while. On Brexit, too, they are now advocating very different standpoints, with Labour recently announcing a push for a “softer” Brexit which would see us remain part of the customs union and the single market for a transitional period (and, if the need arises, on a permanent basis).
So, I hear you ask, where are the party conferences taking place this year and will property get a look in?
Conservatives, Manchester Central, 1-4 October
Main topics on the table: Brexit, Brexit and Brexit. Despite the importance of housing, and the various pledges made by the government on this very topic, it’s very much taken a backseat while Brexit negotiations are underway. Work is reportedly going on in the background to implement the measures set out in February’s Housing White Paper, but the new Housing Minister Alok Sharma has spent most of his tenure batting off criticism of housing safety standards and the totally understandable anger at what happened at Grenfell Tower. Talk is cheap, but we might know more about actual action after the conference.
Labour, Brighton Centre, 24-27 September
Despite a much better than expected performance at the election, the party is still riven by in-fighting and differing positions on a number of key topics. It recently changed its stance on Brexit after a long consultation period and is still shaping policies in a number of key areas, including education, health, foreign affairs and defence.
In its most recent manifesto it pledged to build 100,000 council and housing association homes a year, suspend Right to Buy, control rents, introduce landlord licensing, create a new generation of New Towns to prevent urban sprawl, and bring brownfield sites back into use. It will be interesting to see how much these pledges change, if at all, and how much time is given over to housing during the conference.
How much is that house in my constituency?
Sticking with politics for a moment (stay with me!), new research has revealed the average house price across each political party’s constituencies. The findings from Bridging Loan Hub threw up some interesting and surprising results. Conservative seats only ranked third – despite rivals often pointing to the Tories as the party of the rich – while the Green Party and Liberal Democrat constituencies were the most expensive in the UK, despite these more liberally-minded parties championing a fairer, more equitable society and better redistribution of wealth.
By analysing the average house price in all 650 constituencies, the research found that the Green Party’s sole constituency (Brighton Pavilion, where co-leader Caroline Lucas has been MP since 2010) had the highest, currently standing at £394,577. This narrowly pipped the Lib Dems, whose seats had an average value of £368,517. In spite of a reputation for looking out for the interests of the well-heeled above everyone else, Tory seats averaged only £330,585 per home.
Saying that, the single most expensive constituency is, as you would expect, a Conservative one – with four others also making the top 10. Labour seats, meanwhile, had an average price of £265,762, but this ranged from £90,058 in some constituencies to £2,104,838 in others. The range was even greater in Tory-held seats, with the difference between the least and most expensive constituencies standing at £2,082,689. The most expensive constituency in the country, Chelsea and Fulham, has an average house price of £2,203,482, a whopping 25 times more expensive than the cheapest constituency in the UK!
What’s the future of housing?
If you’ve been watching BBC London News this week, you would’ve seen some interesting features on how things – including transport, housing and jobs – are set to look in the future. Well, around 2050 to be precise, so not that far in the future. Driverless cars and trains could be the norm, automation will be playing an even greater role in our lives than ever before and certain jobs (in particular those in retail and hospitality) will have been taken over by the robots.
The likelihood of flying cars and robots making your breakfast – as has been imagined in many sci-fi films and TV shows down the years – is far, far slimmer, but the world is expected to look vastly different 33 years in the future than it does today, just as 2017 looks very different to 1984 (when I was still a mere slip of a boy, albeit still 6 foot 6!).
Predictions of the future are notoriously paved with potholes, but what of housing? Rather boringly, our housing stock in 2050 will probably look much the same as it does now – a mixture of period properties, ancient cottages, new-builds (which will by then be quite old-builds), 1920 and 30s terraced and detached houses, bungalows, swanky apartments and grand townhouses.
However, smart homes are likely to be much more commonplace – where everything in a property is hooked up, interactive, connected and wireless; and where everything, from turning lights on to boiling the kettle, will be done via voice command or technology such as Siri or Alexa.
With space at a premium and populations growing (particularly in cities and urban spaces), building is likely to go up and up rather than sideways or outwards – although there has been, and will continue to be, considerable opposition to huge towers and skyscrapers dominating our city skylines. Shared ownership and shared neighbourhood amenities may also become more widespread, while co-living could become more popular among young professionals as cities look for ways to house an increasingly large renter population.
We won’t be living on the moon or Mars by 2050, but technology, smart homes and innovation are likely to be dominating our lives more than ever.
That’s that from me this week. If you have any thoughts on the future of housing, and what it will look like in 2050, you know where to put them.
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.