Thursday, 11 June 2015

London Real Estate Forum 2015: a barometer of London's transformation

LREF 2015 delegates talk over Pipers' London model © London Intelligence 2015

Property talk hums through London's air.
Londoners can seem to be constantly on duty servants of a property market god. 
Whether a believer or heretic, it's impossible to ignore, especially as this omnipotent real estate deity is a harbinger of fast and vast looming transformations of London. 
Property world delegates at the third annual London Real Estate Forum, held in gilded Mayfair this week (10-11 June), warmly herald many of these convulsions.
Developers, estate agents, architects, urban designers, local politicians, planners and regeneration experts number amongst the congregation gathered in a marquee ‘village’ on the north side of Berkeley Square.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson supports LREF 2015. The event is hosted by the City of Westminster, media ‘partnered’ by the Financial Times, and dark-suited security guards patrol its perimeter.

The London Real Estate Forum acts as a useful barometer of how property-driven transformations continue to rattle many of the capital’s traditional neighbourhoods and shake up long-established family and social networks.   
LREF shows that housing is still primarily valued as a commodity for profitable speculation rather than treat it as infrastructure for a more direct and inclusive form of regeneration that all Londoners can genuinely afford.

Another strong signal from LREF is that market conditions threaten old London dichotomies with extinction over the next decade or so; central London and the suburbs, North versus South London, rich prime central areas and deprived inner city wards. 
LREF reveals that Far Eastern investors and investors are scoping outlying areas such as Tottenham, Croydon, Southall and Woolwich - and they can be seen introducing themselves to local politicians.
In the next five years or so, London's socio-economic inequalities might be swept under the property market’s fabric - albeit chiefly due to rising prices and rents sweeping Londoners on average and lower incomes out of their London.
Looking at LREF’s models and images, it’s clear too that London is coming up in the world – literally. 
To achieve ‘super-density’ – and maybe even Shanghai and Hong Kong ‘hyper-density’ - London’s skyline is set to become a forest of towers, both residential and commercial.
With interest rates sealed low - and the world's political economy in turmoil - the planet's elites see London 'real estate' as a safe haven and even a good long-term bet for their wealth.

For more on LREF 2015 visit

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2015

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The London Real Estate Forum 2015

Mayor of London Boris Johnson at LREF 2014 © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2014

Organisers hope warm summer sunshine will once again flare through Berkeley Square’s majestic Victorian plane trees for at least two days next week (Wednesday 10 - Thursday 11 June).
The London Real Estate Forum 2015 promises to transmit a steady stream of signals that will pinpoint the future direction of the capital’s property market - and hint at its impact on London’s wider political economy, writes Paul Coleman.

Day One on Wednesday inside the event's Berkeley Square marquees focuses on London’s office market whilst Thursday’s theme centres more on the three ‘r’s – residential, retail, and regeneration.
It will be interesting to see if more delegates than last year attend LREF 2015 briefings on development and investment opportunities arising in outer London boroughs; for instance, in more risky London areas targeted for housing-led ‘regeneration’, such as Tottenham, and parts of Barnet, Croydon, Ealing and Southwark.
Local authorities will try to use LREF 2015 to both formally and informally alert developers and investors to development opportunities within their borough – similar to the way they seek to use the annual MIPIM real estate jamboree held at Cannes on the south of France. Elected local councillors and local authority regeneration and planning officers due to speak at LREF 2015 include:
  • Councillor Robert Davis (Westminster City Council)
  • Cllr Daniel Astaire (Westminster)
  • Cllr Ravi Govindia (Wandsworth)
  • Cllr Alan Strickland (Haringey)
  • Ed Watson (Camden)
  • Stephen Platts (Southwark)
  • Pat Hayes (Ealing)
  • Stephen McDonald (Barnet).
Organisers say LREF 2015 will be different than the past two events as it features a ‘showcase area showing significant development across all 33 London boroughs’.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson addressed LREF 2014 delegates.
The main signal emanating from LREF 2014 suggested capital would continue to flow into London’s booming segmented property markets – residential, commercial office, retail, hotel, and student accommodation. This proved right. However, unlike the mutually beneficial relationship between bees and flowers, this capital inflow has not enabled Londoners on average and lower incomes to make their lives bloom with secure and genuinely affordable homes. 
Residential property market investment, both by short-term speculators, or by longer-term players like sovereign wealth funds, continues to thrust central London house prices and rents beyond the reach of many Londoners.
And, worryingly, this over-heating market is driving outer London prices and rents beyond their reach too.

The full version of this article can be viewed at London Intelligence.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2015