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Blog - Future of Housing discussed over coffee and croissants: A summary of our first Housing Breakfast Talk

On June 11, we opened our doors to colleagues in the housing industry keen to hear about the future of housing from some of those leading the way in the sector. Joining us for coffee and croissants on the day were speakers from Residential Analysts, the Centre for Ageing Better, Hilson Moran and Chimni. This fab four shared some of the projects they are working on to help drive innovation and new technologies in housing to help deliver homes fit for the future.

Our speakers on the day included:

  • Neal Hudson, Director, Residential Analysts – Prior to founding Residential Analysts in 2017 Neal worked for Savills in the market analyst team. During his presentation, Neal highlighted the key challenges that are facing local housing markets right now, touching on the unsustainable house price to earnings ratio the market is currently playing out against as well as the current state and poor quality of housing. For Neal, these and many other factors, have played a key role in he considers to be the current housing crisis.
  • Jemma Mouland, Senior Innovation Manager, Centre for Ageing Better – Leading the innovation team at the Centre for Ageing Better, Jemma’s work focuses on how do we give people five more years of quality, independent life using new technological advances. On the day, Jemma talked about the future of housing through the lens of our ageing population and explained the fact that we’re living longer should be seen as an opportunity for the economy and society. But, without getting the fundamentals, like housing, right, these opportunities may be missed which would have a negative impact on our living standards in later life.
  • Marie-Louise Schembri, Project Director, Hilson Moran – Hilson Moran is a consultancy specialising in many areas from the built environment to sustainability and smart buildings. As Project Director, Marie-Louise has played a big part in many of these projects. Marie-Louise used her time to demonstrate how the some of the major challenges we face, not just in housing but in society as a whole, are actually contradicting each other which, in turns, is making them more difficult to address. For example, the climate crisis is leading a discussion about the electrification of heat and the fact that the carbonisation of electricity could have a knock-on effect as we move towards the introduction of electric vehicles.
  • Nigel Walley, Managing Director, Chimni – An entrepreneur at heart, Nigel is interested in how technology and new platforms can improve housing and the lives of people in their homes. Nigel used this opportunity to talk about the homeowners and renters participating in the process of delivering housing fit for the future by giving them data, data that should already be theirs and data that homes are now producing exponentially since the advent of smart home devices and the Internet of Things.

The morning was a huge success with a great turnout and lots of enthusiastic questions from the audience.

Asking the big housing questions

To provide some added insight from our guest speakers, we put a couple of questions to them after the morning. You can read their thoughts on the challenges that housing faces and what steps we need to overcome them.

Name one key housing challenge and explain why it is critical?

Neal Hudson, Residential Analysts: “My key housing challenge is the lack of a consensus view of what a ‘crisis-free’ housing system might look like. The nearest we have is an aspirational target for new-build homes with limited clarity on what to expect if we were to hit those numbers.”

Jemma Mouland, Centre for Ageing Better: “Over 90% of over 65s living in ordinary, mainstream housing. Yet one in five (20%) of the homes they live in fail to meet the decent homes standard, and only 7% meet the most basic accessibility standards, leaving them disabled by their environment.

“We have to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of the homes people are living in the here and now. Across both existing and new homes, we have to stop thinking only about specialist housing solutions ‘for older people’. We must focus on developing more diverse housing options that meet the needs of people as they age.”

Marie-Louise Schembri, Hilson Moran: “I would strongly argue that re-skilling is our biggest challenge. The breadth of the challenge is large. It includes fundamental changes to our education system, to reskilling of labourers and professionals who are halfway through their careers, to educating residents about new technologies.”

Nigel Walley, Chimni: “We think a key challenge is getting homeowners to care about the many and varied revolutions that are exercising the industry. We are all very keen to create ‘low-carbon’, ‘eco’, ‘passivhaus’ homes but for the majority of the 25 million homeowners, these concepts are meaningless. We also want homeowners to play an active part in the smart cities of the future and to connect to online services and share data at town and city level but, once again, these concepts are alien to most homeowners who can’t see the rationale for any of this.”

In what ways could we try and overcome these challenges?

NH: “Building a framework for what we need and want from housing, combined with an understanding of the complexities and interactions that run through the housing market, is essential to resolving the problems they create. Without a framework, our ability to understand and fix it appropriately will be compromised. A lack of clarity also increases the risk of unintended consequences from misguided policy interventions. There will inevitably be differences in opinion on what a ‘crisis-free’ housing system might look like, but there should be enough common ground for a longer-term approach to housing policy.”

JM: “We need renewed interest, innovation and investment in improving our existing housing stock to address the unacceptable numbers of inaccessible and non-decent homes. We also need to support local authorities, planners and developers to deliver new homes that are future-proofed and accessible to everyone, regardless of age. This isn’t about making homes look like hospitals. Simple features like level access entry and wider doorways, bathrooms with integrated grips and handles, and stylish kitchens with lever door handles and waist-high ovens can make all the difference.”

M-LS: “We live in an age when technologies such as automation, AI and open source global platforms are within our reach, so we may be able to focus reskilling around coding for the creation of tools, to resolve complex problems, analyse data and improve user interfaces of day-to-day home systems. These are just some of the possibilities.

“I have come across many concerns in our industry that automation and offsite manufacture removes the human element, douses seasoned skills and compromises quality. But the key is in ensuring that in fast-tracking the delivery of homes, human needs, intuition and know-how inform and refine the process and that ultimately a level of sensitivity and quality that has never been delivered in local construction is achieved.

“It may well be that this is only possible if we truly invest in enabling our industry workforce to apply digital tools.”

NW: “As with so many of these problems it needs to be a combination of education, carrot and stick. We would like to see some form of tax benefit, administered through the local government council tax system that rewards homeowners who take concrete steps to reduce the carbon profile of their home, improve insulation and support the creation of public data sets by connecting their homes to council services.”

If you’d like to comment on anything you’ve read in this blog post, join the conversation on Twitter using #FutureOfHousing and @CPCatapult.

The morning’s event was the first of what will be a number of opportunities to share what is happening in the world of Future of Housing. The next breakfast meetup is scheduled for 10 July at our offices in London when we will be talking about discussing housing standards. If you’re interested in how housing standards are set to change in the future, you can sign up to the event for free here.

The Future of Housing is also a headline theme at our annual flagship conference, CityX. Happening between 13 – 14 November, any interested in attending can buy their tickets from the CityX website today.

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