• It’s the End of the World as we know it?

    It is over 18 months since Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, in a deeply prescient piece, announced that the World could be only “two or three bad elections” away from the end of NATO, the EU and maybe the “liberal world order as we know it”. So, with the German Federal election safety negotiated, can we listen again to the REM track with the same sense of amused detachment? Sadly, no.

    If Applebaum accurately mapped the road to power of Trump, the possibility of UK Brexit (and Corbyn) and the rise of the Front Nationale in France, why was she wrong about the bad elections? In truth, the erosion of support for ‘liberal’ world order supporting majority parties continues at pace. As stated here previously, we are reliving the 1930s politics and it isn’t pretty.

    In 2013, the conservative CDU/CSU, the social democratic SPD and the pro-business Liberal FDP, (who have contributed to all governments since normal service was resumed) polled 72.0% of the popular vote. Their share was 81.4% in 2009. Yesterday, these parties polled only 64.1%.

    The key change was the 8% growth in support for the nationalist AfD. This put it over the threshold for parliamentary representation. The well-established minorities of the Greens and the Left put on fractions of a percent, whilst the pro-business FDP liberals added 6% too.

    Where does this leave the ‘liberal’ mainstream consensus? Mutti Merkl’s CDU/CSU will lead the government – although with support below a third for the first time in the post-war era, her authority is eroded. With former coalition partners the SPD, retiring to lick their social democratic wounds, forming a coalition with the antipathetic Greens and the FDP will make Premier May’s negotiations with the DUP look like child’s play.

    The only positive note of the SPD’s leaving the coalition is that by becoming the official opposition, it precludes the nationalist AfD from assuming the chairs of key scrutiny committees in the Bundestag.

    So far, Applebaum’s score card is mixed. Whilst, the US voted for disrupting the liberal world order at every opportunity, Germany and France has, through very different routes, opted for the consensus. In the UK, we’re ambivalently checking out of the EU, whilst trying to retain or reconstruct all its advantages …

    The outbreak of war in 1939, stopped the democratic clocks and the eventual outcome established the political and constitutional basis for our ‘liberal’ world order to emerge. Unless, an unhinged blowhard with a finger on the nuclear trigger intervenes (insert US/North Korean/etc. leader of choice here), the West has four to five years before it reruns these elections. Unless the world economy reboots by then, more elections could turn “bad”. A Trump or Pence candidacy will precede an embattled Macron re-election bid and a post-Merkl Germany. For ‘good’ results to occur, the progressive parties in each country will need to find credible candidates who can articulate coherent alternatives to isolationism and hatred.

    Otherwise, it may be the end of the World order as we know it – and, just now, I don’t feel fine.

    Category: News, Comment Tags: Election, Merkl, Trump, Brexit, politics
  • TINA and the Nays have it

    Don’t believe what you’ve heard, the 2017 Election result was completely decisive.

    And the overwhelming winner was … the Nein Danke Party
    - Labour amassed a 10% vote rise on the Austerity - No Thanks ticket.
    - The Tories amassed a larger vote (and now an arrangement with the DUP) on the Anyone But Jezza platform.
    - In Scotland, the Tories gained 12 seats via the No More Referenda gambit.
    - In Northern Ireland, politics reached the end of a 45 year trajectory, with the No compromise parties now occupying 17 of the 18 seats.

    A subtle realignment is occurring ?
    - Due in part to capturing much of the UKIP vote, the Tory support has become less educated and lower down the social scale, whilst Labour’s electorate has become more metropolitan and higher educated.
    - As I predicted, in the North East the Tories gained big increases in votes and won Middlesbrough SE.
    - Ditto in parts of the Midlands e.g. they won in former strongholds in Mansfield, NE Derby, and also reaffirmed the Copeland by-election result.
    - However, Trump’s win suggests that losing touch with its industrial base doesn’t end well for the Left.

    A famous victory ?
    - Despite Len McCluskey’s contention that this was a Labour victory, after seven years of austerity, the Party has only gained 4 more seats than the 2010 defeat.
    - The Conservatives will remain in charge, short of losing a Confidence Motion.
    - Labour’s 1970s’ experience suggests this could take several years and it looks like a Brexit vote would be the issue to do it.
    - Without the DUP, May is actually three votes short (with a liberal unionist still in play).
    - The result has confirmed my previous contention that a leftist alliance does not have enough votes to win, unless it can (like France’s Macron) attract centrist votes.

    The Nays have it
    Another sort of nay sayer now holds sway
    - May remains in power because there is no conceivable Tory opponent to her yet.
    - The Brexiteers ironically see her as the best bet for their version of Brexit.
    - So, whilst the Brexit process is vaguely on track, the PM will rattle on.
    - As another female PM almost once put it. For the moment, There Is No Alternative.

    Category: News, Comment Tags: Election, labour, Tory, ukip, May, Brexit
  • Letat est Emannuel

    • A big swing to M. Blanc and Mme Abstention
    - A quarter of voters stayed at home (or went away – it’s a Bank Holiday today!)
    - The French Left abstained in 1969, when George Pompidou (ironically, not the centrist candidate, geddit ?!) defeated a Liberal to replace De Gaulle.
    - Ok the level of abstention was (a bit) lower than the 1969, but this confirms with my observation of two weeks ago, that the electorate is not happy with its choices.
    - Of those who did vote, the number of 'blanc votes', spoiled or unmarked papers was 12.3%. This was a record high and double 1969’s level.
    - Suggesting the political disconnect is arguably twice as great as après les événements de 1968.

    • As predicted, the Hard Right were thrashed but …
    - But nowhere near as thoroughly as M. Le Pen was in 2001
    - Marine le Pen (#NotaMarineNoraPen) won over one third of a national vote and still took several départements
    - FN also added to its vote from the first round – the opinion polls suggested about a quarter of the conservative vote would transfer (plus 10% of the Hard Left’s … !)
    - This suggests FN’s imminent rebranding could draw a bit more support if the mainstream conservative party does not rebound.
    - This is a problem in waiting for the Assemblée Nationale elections in June – don’t forget Macron doesn’t actually lead any party.

    • Messages for the UK
    - The opinion polls were bang on
    - To create a consensus, our parties need to focus beyond the lowest common denominator of getting their core vote out
    - People are dissatisfied and need engaging with a coherent vision
    - Beware of the low turnout, Labour – sometimes you get what you didn’t bargain for (see my blog on Tees Valley and the local elections)
    - Choosing not to compromise with other progressive forces can be a risky business for the Left, if you can’t mobilise at least a third of your electorate under one banner

    • The limits of authenticity
    - This result underlines that political authenticity is not enough for an anti-Establishment candidate to win
    - People have to believe in the policies and the competence of a candidate as well as their firmness of conviction
    - Speaking to our own concerns was twice as important for the anti-Establishment Le Pen’s supporters as Macron’s. Yet, she lost heavily.
    - Depth of commitment is no substitute for breadth of support.

    Category: News, Comment Tags: France, French, Election, Le Pen
  • It’s not what you do. It’s the way that you do it!

    • The Electorate has rejected Right-wing policies
    No, I haven’t got that wrong. The Conservative and UKIP share of the vote fell by 5% since 2013. But the key to first past the post elections is the distribution of votes. May’s Hard Brexit stance has consolidated the right of centre votes. However, progressive voters, whose total exceeded the Right’s, are split 60/40 and so are undercutting each other. As the Bananarama almost had it: It’s not how you vote. It’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results.

    • The pollsters have got it about right
    Local elections are poor predictors for General Elections. The Conservative vote share was higher at the 1983 and 1987 General Elections than in the precursor locals. This may explain why the Conservatives share was only 11% ahead, compared with an 18% lead in the polls. People may vote differently when national issues come into play. One thing the polls have got bang on, was the collapse in UKIP votes.

    • Differential turnout is a big worry for Labour
    Whilst turnout was, as usual, dire across the country, there were significant differences, which point to Labour’s core vote staying at home. For example, leafy Conservative Solihull turned out 33% compared with solid Labour Sandwell’s 23%. That disparity scuppered Labour’s Metro-Mayoral candidate.

    • There something happening in the North East
    Sue Jeffrey’s unfortunate defeat in Tees Valley was on a dire 21% turnout. However, with 5 out of the 6 MPs in the region, turnout shouldn’t have mattered to Labour. Add in the loss of 22 seats in Durham, some solid Labour council seats being lost this year in by-elections and young MPs standing down and it’s hard not to conclude something significant may be happening below the radar.

    • Voters are not on board for a grand progressive alliance so far
    Since 2015, I’ve advised boards that an anti-Tory approach wouldn’t begin to emerge until after 2020. This premature election may speed that up – but GB voters are not the transferring kind. For example, half the votes in the West of England and West Midlands races, transferred neither to the Labour or Conservative front runners.

    Also the Tories are much better at harvesting UKIP second preferences than Labour is from its putative reservoir of potential progressive votes. In the West Midlands, Labour only gained at best 41% transfers from Lib Dems, Greens and Communists.

    • The mainstream parties have lost ground
    Just as in France, the mainstream parties have lost share of the total vote. (See Durham). The four largest parties (inc. UKIP) got just short of 88% of the projected national vote compared with 91% in 2013. It’s not a tsunami, but, taken with the poor (though better) turnout, our democracy is clearly under pressure.

    Category: News, Comment Tags: Election, conservatives, labour, ukip, north east
  • Thunderbolt and lightning: Messages from France for the UK General Election

    arc4 Director, Derek Long, highlights what the French Presidential Election can tell us about the result of our own June 8th contest

    Le Pen’s second place shows the limitations for the harder right
    - Le Pen’s second place does not presage a UKIP surge
    - This has all happened before when the left was divided and Le Pen Père got through in 2002. He lost by a mere 83% to 17% to the revamped Gaulliste, Chirac.
    - The worrying news for Labour’s heartlands is that some of Le Pen’s support comes from Trumpian post-industrial voters in the former metal bashing regions.

    Mélenchon’s stronger show suggests a ceiling for a harder left approach
    - Mélenchon did get 19% of the poll – but …
    - He still came comfortably behind an entirely discredited conservative, a far-right candidate and a Social Democrat/Liberal author of anti-trades union laws
    - He has consolidated the old Communist Party vote (like Mitterand did for the Parti Socialiste (PS) in the 1970s) but, with a good campaign, the PS vote up for grabs, Le Pen on the rise and Capitalism going through a major crisis, he still came 4th…

    Macron’s rise has the whiff of an SDP insurgency, rather than a centrist realignment
    - The Assemblée Nationale elections will give more of a clue whether this was faute de mieux and merely the prelude to US style gridlock (which the AN will win)
    - Giscard d'Estaing broke the Gaullist monopoly in 1974 but was not re-elected
    - So, as in 2010 – can anyone fake the authenticity needed to break through in the UK?
    - And if En Marche doesn’t succeed in France, it may retard UK moves for an anti-Conservative rapprochement for 2022

    Be nice to sensible politicians – it’s getting harder to form compromises out there
    - We are back in the 1930s (as I have mentioned many times). The managerial centrist parties are losing share to the extremes – 40% voted extrêmes this time in France.
    - The first five ‘big’ ‘parties’ share of the vote fell from 94% to 91% - so, even when they win, their mandates are a little less solid than before
    - Mélenchon is consulting on abstention or ballot spoiling rather than support Macron
    - Expect more votes in the UK for very fringe parties like “Get the coppers off the jury”

    The voters are very off-piste about their choices
    - Spoilt papers were up to 2.6% (a 32.8% proportionate increase !)
    - Turnout was down 1.5% (a 2.1% proportionate fall)
    - Despite the strong choices available, some voters are agreeing with Freddie Mercury that “Nothing really matters. Anyone can see.”
    - And the long range forecast for democracy is …
    “Thunderbolt and lightning, Very, very frightening me”

    Category: News, Comment, Housing industry, Property, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: France, French, Election
  • Opportunity knocks? Shaping a new private rented sector | Wednesday 3 May 2017 | Kingsway Hall, London

    More than four million households now rent their home from a private landlord; nearly twice as many as 10 years ago. But with the Council of Mortgage Lenders forecasting a substantial drop in the number of buy-to-let landlords in the coming years - how is the private rented sector going to keep up with ever-increasing demand?

    This one-day seminar in London will be chaired by HQN's PRS expert, former Head of Housing at the Audit Commission Roger Jarman, and feature a top line-up of speakers including arc4 Managing Director, Helen Brzozowski.

    Further information can be found on the following link at HQN's website:

    http://hqnetwork.co.uk/events/opportunity-knocks-shaping-a-new-private-r...

    Category: News, Housing industry, Property, Arc4 Tags: PRS, private rent, HQN
  • arc4 Director interviewed on Korean Housing Market outlook

    With Korea firmly on the world stage again, Derek Long was interviewed by Asian Property News for his insight into its unique property market.

    - After a major dip in the housing market in 2013, have things begun to improve, or have recent problems - presidential corruption, threats from DPRK, a shift in US policy away from Asia - exacerbated the problem?

    Housing prices recovered gradually from the 2013 setback, picking up sharply in early 2016. However, growing uncertainty has meant prices have plateaued for the past 6 months. It’s early days, but prices look to be slipping below the decade long trend of 2% annual growth. Certainly, a January survey of consumer opinion suggested almost half believed sale prices will fall this year. All of which points to a familiar upwards pressure on jeonse prices, as would-be owners hedge equity losses by chasing ever scarcer jeonse properties.

    - What effect is the glut in the property market caused by the building boom of recent years having on the health of the broader Korean economy (particularly re. household debt and borrowing)

    Household Debt-to-GDP ratio has now reached 90% which has surpassed the UK and is heading towards twice the German ratio. Fuelled by a sharp expansion last year, the housing component is particularly worrying. Already 1.5 million (8%) of households are already technically underwater and are paying an eye-watering 40% of their disposable income to service loans. With mortgage rates at their highest for two years and US interest rates likely to rise, the Bank of Korea projects the next 1% increase in base rate would add another 69,000 households. This is not sustainable in the long term.

    - With Park's ouster, and the coming Winter Olympics, will investor/consumer confidence be restored, or can we expect things to remain difficult with regards the Korean economy, and the housing market in particular, for some time?

    The future trajectory for the Republic’s economy appears uncertain. With President Park’s replacement due to be elected in May, ironically the most important election for the ROK’s future has already taken place. It’s President Trump’s reactions towards North Korea that will be key for investor confidence in the South’s economy for the next four years. The lack of a workable Presidential/Parliamentary majority emerging after May could further fuel uncertainty.

    With economic growth fluctuating, the chaebols focussing inwards, growing tensions with China and the trend towards global protectionism, the Central Bank’s 2.6% growth forecast feels a tad optimistic.

    In times of uncertainty, speculative money moves into sound asset classes. The past new build glut makes property less likely to be a go to investment. True, Olympics tend to push up property prices above trend and national averages. However, given Pyeongchang’s size, urban form and remoteness, it is doubtful the competition will make a significant impact on anything but some local prices.

    Which reminds us of the ROK’s key structural challenge, that regional housing markets are effectively decoupled from the dominant Seoul market. Creating measures that are more sensitive to regional markets may be a second order challenge for government – but will be important for the long term health of the housing market and the economy.

    Category: News, Comment, Housing industry, Property, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: Korea, Housing, market
  • Non - starter

    In a year when May came after June, you might have bet that the Starter Homes initiative would also have landed on the new prime minister's bonfire of George Osborne's vanities. Yet, as the government gets set to announce a paradigm lurch towards ownership in planning policy, our new research into the Starter Homes market raises important questions about whether developers and councils can meet Downing Street's aspirations.

    In the next few weeks, the Department for Communities and Local Government will confirm that the National Planning Policy Framework is to be changed so that Starter Homes will form part of councils' affordable housing requirement. Councils will need to achieve a 'quota' of Starter Homes on appropriate sites, including probably rural exceptions. Planners will need to secure Starter Homes as part of their on-site negotiations.

    Add in that Starter Homes-eligible households of first-time buyers under 40 can access a 20% discount and settled conclusions about housing demand go out of the window - as our recent research commissioned by a Northern local authority shows.

    Using primary research, re-analysis of 2013's Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) data, Zoopla's database and Census analysis, we found that the Starter Homes discount could potentially bring 82% more households into buying. This constituted a staggering 4% of the total households in the authority. Three-quarters of this new market could afford two-bed properties, with the remainder being able to access three-bed homes via the discount. However, when the level of savings were factored in, the number of potential households fell back by half.

    The Starter Homes-eligible households appear to have different aspirations than the SHMA analysis would indicate. Our research found that 60% of an (admittedly much smaller) sample of eligible households sought two-bed housing compared with the majority that sought three-bed properties reported by the SHMA.

    As with the previous SHMA analysis, the eligible households expected (but did not aspire) to move to semi-detached properties or terraces. However, the locations they could afford had changed significantly. This suggests that marketing campaigns will need to recalibrate households' expectations of where they might move.

    A worrying finding for registered providers bidding for Homes and Communities Agency grant is that hardly any eligible household had considered shared ownership, and significantly, of those that did, only a small fraction considered it a possible option. This is corroborated by other primary research we have undertaken where target households preferred full over shared ownership. While raising the profile of shared ownership will undoubtedly help, the resistance to the product among informed target households suggests that almost doubling the numbers of shared owners in England by 2020 requires a rethinking of the offer.

    Our survey of eligible households revealed a limited awareness of the Starter Homes initiative and while the product generally achieved a positive response when explained, there was some scepticism that it was 'too good to be true', that locations would be unfavourable and unhappiness that it was only available for new build.

    For housing strategists, there are wider implications. Our analysis found that two-bed Starter Homes would be cheaper than their private rented equivalents. While this price advantage did not extend greatly into the three-bed private market, in discrete communities, Starter Homes developments could very easily create demand problems for private landlords with potential consequences of under-investment and empty homes.

    Although Starter Homes are private products, the pressure will be on the public sector to deliver. While our research found the aspiration to own is strong among eligible households, flexibility will be the key for planners and developers seeking to make sense of a brittle post-Brexit housing market.

    Derek Long, Director of Housing and Data Consultancy, arc4
    First published in Inside Housing 20 September 2016

    Category: News, Comment, Housing industry, Property, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: Housing, starter homes, affordable, shared ownership, Strategic, SHMA
  • Doorbellology

    There’s a reason why that hideous new estate they’ve built on the disused asbestos factory site is called Foxes Barn or St Cuthberts Reach. It’s called doorbellology – the science – OK, pseudo-science that tells us that our addresses can influence the value of our properties.

    UNLUCKY13?
    Received wisdom has it that number 13s won’t sell. In the latest Department for Communities and Local Government release of 120,000 house sales, only 1,190 number 13s homes were sold – compared with 2,067 number 12s and 1,854 number 14s. So trying to sell a number 13 is surely a bad bet. But… the average price[1] of a number 13 is nearly £15,700, above the average for a number 12. That’s a 6.2% differential.
    So why are developers building fewer number 13s? The ratio of new build number 13s to 12s has fallen by 12% compared with existing properties. Might some doorbellology improve their profits?

    WHO IS THE PATRON SAINT OF ESTATE AGENTS?
    Actually every saint is. After ‘The’, the most common name of a street where sales occurred (2,040 or 1.7%) started with a saint’s name.
    And saints’ streets are a good bet to live in because a ‘St Something’ address is worth 5% (£13,427) more than the England and Wales median. So while homes in streets with saints names may be more common, they appear also to be in better areas than most for prices.

    The word ‘High’ was the next most common start to a street name. However, this was almost half as less frequent, at 1,096 sales.

    DO NAMES MATTER?
    Well, among the top 5% of streets ranked by their average value, a home on a street named after a girl are worth 2.2% (£16,746) more than ones on those with boys’ names. Once the classical references to Aristotle and Agamemnon are dispensed with, the boys’ names are fewer and, frankly, a bit scratchy such as Waldemar and Onslow.

    When it comes to naming valuable homes, being rustic is the best bet. Names referencing trees or woods are by far the most common in the top 5% sales by price, followed distantly by animals (often birds) and more general rural features.

    Across the value range, having ‘Willow’ at the start of your house name added 0.8% to the median (middle) value compared with the national median. So, short of moving your house to the country, cultivating a tree in the back garden might be a good plan.

    ALWAYS A FOREIGN FIELD?
    Exotic locations may work for house names, but the smart money for the expensive sales are much more likely to be in streets named after more European locations, like Luxemburg (sic), Frankfurt, and especially Spanish or related locations such as Cadiz, Palma and Iberian. Often, the streets are named from the by-jingo School Atlas, like Borneo and Burma, perhaps suggesting that old streets have undergone major regeneration.

    AND THE PICK OF THE NAMES?
    Who can better the home sold called WI-WURRIE.

    After all, it’s just bricks and mortar!

    Derek Long, a director of housing and data consultancy, arc4
    First published in Inside Housing Magazine

    Category: Comment, Housing industry, Property, Arc4 Tags: Housing, house sales, developers, new build, house names
  • Can Cannes?

    MIPIM – remember the acronym. Pronounced Mip-em, Le Marché International des professionnels de l’immobilier held each March in Cannes, is fast becoming a key date for local authorities and social landlords seeking finance for new development.

    But don’t think Harrogate with sand, or Manchester with yachts. With over 20,000 delegates, this focus for investors and developers now rivals the town’s Film Festival for size. Attracting almost 8,000 organisations from 89 countries, the conference is, in reality, the Davos for development.

    So why have bodies from London, Leeds and Liverpool shelled out scarce rents or council taxes to fund the £1,400-a-head tickets? The answer is simple. Capital looking for an asset. With the decline of central government funding, UK councils and LEPs are looking to attract inward investment to transform their economies and housing markets.

    And they are in deadly earnest. If our Easyjet pilot had turned sharp left into the Alpes-Maritimes, the mayor of Liverpool, his chief executive, Liverpool Vision’s head honcho, plus a former member of the Olympic Delivery Authority would have all promptly checked in to the schmoozefest in the sky.

    The lure is 1,600 investors. Dodging the stands proffering Latvian firewater or Portuguese opera singers are men (and they are overwhelmingly men) with cash in search of an asset.
    Britain is an important target (but not a sure thing). The unchained capital takes many forms, from a diamond-Rolexed Indian family wealth fund manager, to a nervous French crowd funder or a major institutional investor.
    The investors are less concerned with tenure and more focused on the bottom line.

    Visitors to our joint Grant Thornton/arc4 stand showed that interest in UK private renting is not just paper talk. So products like ours, which can analyse the private rented market to a forensic degree for investors, developers and local authorities, attracted significant interest.

    Notwithstanding the benign weather, MIPIM was not plain sailing for the UK pitchers. A staggering 544 local authorities were there competing for funding.

    Striking presences by, for example, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, were up against very well heeled contributions from Montreal, St Petersburg, Dubai, Tokyo, Istanbul and Warsaw.

    The US had a large showcase for developing states. And whoever paid to get the key main road outside the Carlton Hotel closed for the evening could give tutorials on how to make a really big impression.

    So can the Cannes property festival supplant conventional routes for development financing? No, It will always be the province for big-city, often signature developments and for the present, substantially London-focused interest.

    However, it is clear that MIPIM-sourced finance will increasingly become a feature of major programmes of social landlords and local authorities’ non-market development across the UK.

    Derek Long, a director of housing and data consultancy, arc4
    First published in Inside Housing Magazine

    Category: Comment, Housing industry, Social housing, Arc4 Tags: Cannes, development, finance, investment, MIPIM

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