On Wednesday April 20, EMW’s development and social housing team held its fifth annual Mini Housing Conference. After a lockdown-induced two-year delay, it was back with a bang as the team welcomed guests back to the Milton Keynes office for the morning.
Head of EMW Real Estate, Terence Ritchie, said:
“We were excited to welcome guests back in person; the idea of these events is not only to deliver some interesting and insightful talks by both EMW and our esteemed guest speakers, but also to facilitate discussion and debate among our clients and contacts in the residential development sector. We also gave attendees the option to join us virtually, to provide maximum flexibility in this new world of hybrid working.”
After some networking over breakfast, Mark Davies, EMW Principal and Head of Development, kicked off the first of five talks, with an overview of the local residential development market, focusing on Milton Keynes and The Arc (whatever its fate). Mark said of the conference:
“It goes without saying that the size and breadth of our team allows us to deliver outstanding technical advice and service, but we also aim to be at the heart of the conversation and help to use our knowledge and connections to help drive development forward.”
Guest speaker, Andy Haynes, a Partner in the Development team at Bidwells, then discussed ‘housing delivery in a buoyant market’. Andy presented some thought-provoking statistics around the key housing indicators in the 21st Century and also the recipe for achieving delivery, before ending on ‘reasons to be cheerful’ (featuring Ian Drury and The Blockheads for all you music fans).
To round out part one of the conference, Marco Mauro, EMW Principal and Head of Planning, spoke about First Homes. He looked at what First Homes are (essentially a new discounted housing product delivered direct to the market by private developers), the eligibility criteria, provision of First Homes and Homes England’s model clauses (what they cover but also what they do not). Marco was able to draw on his practical experience of dealing with these issues and gave tips on the things to watch out for, balancing commercial interests and satisfying funders and how this should be approached in the context of applications and appeals. The rhetorical question guests were left to ponder was whether First Homes are here to stay, potentially impacting on the number of affordable homes to be delivered by housing associations, or whether they will go the way of starter homes.
After a half time hit of caffeine and networking, senior members of EMW’s Social Housing team, Lucy Richardson, Adele Scrivens and Josh Clark, answered the following questions around the new Homes England shared ownership model lease:
- When is the new lease compulsory/discretionary?
- What are the changes that have been made?
- What are the advantages and drawbacks for Housing Associations?
And last but certainly not least, Aileen Evans (Chief Executive of Grand Union Housing Group and the immediate past President of the Chartered Institute of Housing), took the floor for her second consecutive appearance at this event. Aileen started by discussing the challenges through which housing associations are currently navigating, including reducing carbon emissions from homes, a loss of trust, building safety, a shortfall in housing stock and supply, the cost of living crisis and the current political climate. Following nicely on from Andy’s ‘glass half full’ approach to the housing market, Aileen discussed the opportunities for housing associations; in getting to know their customers they can really look at who the housing associations are there for, what housing associations can/should do and who are they building for.
The event finished with a Q&A session, with the panel discussing some insightful questions from the audience, including the possible future of The Arc, whether First Homes and the new model shared ownership leases are genuinely ‘affordable’ and going to help many people, opportunities for joint ventures between housing associations and private developers and how housing associations, developers and their advisors can all play their part in pushing development. The overall message was clear; whilst there are undoubtedly challenges and uncertainties in the current market, there are plenty of opportunities to seize for those building both private residential and affordable housing.
Ideally situated in Knowlhill in Milton Keynes (as well as having offices in London and Gatwick) and with a large team of property experts, including dedicated development, social housing, planning and construction lawyers, who adopt a collaborative and commercial approach, EMW is perfectly placed to provide a one-stop shop for developers and housing associations with their legal work.
The EMW development team can be contacted on 03450706000, or alternatively catch up with them at any of the many local conference events that firm hosts or attends for an informal chat.