Now is the right time for real estate businesses to plan for their recovery from the crisis caused by COVID-19.
Like many industries, real estate has been hit hard by the fallout caused by the virus and is pressing Government hard for further support to mitigate its impact.
The Government is already providing unprecedented levels of support to workers, businesses and tenants. They may go further still and heed the latest calls to recognise ‘furloughed space’.
But at some point, that support will come to an end – and given the wide-ranging nature of support currently provided, much sooner than any beneficiaries are likely to be comfortable with.
So real estate companies need to start thinking about when that day will come – and act now to ensure they are prepared for when it does.
There are two areas of activity developers should be thinking about – their development pipeline and ensuring that their existing places deliver for the communities they aim to serve.
The initial view of lockdown was that it would bring all forms of consultation and pre-planning activity to a shuddering halt. However, the reality is that this has turned out to be a fruitful time to undertake community consultation.
There are two real drivers of this – the first is that people are in their homes more than ever before. While we are confined to our neighbourhoods, we are looking at them with fresh eyes and thinking anew about what makes a great place.
The second is the role of digital engagement tools which are now being embraced by developers, councils and communities alike. Combining local polling, online focus groups and bespoke digital platforms, we are generating deep community engagement and insights. Providing the opportunity to conduct consultations that are as robust – if not more so – than ones built around more traditional face to face consultations.
While many of us long for a return to a time when face to face meetings are an option, the reality is that we can do all the same things digitally, and potentially much more efficiently.
Councils are embracing this fact themselves – ensuring decision making continues through digital meetings.
While the current crisis consumes much of their capacity, they will increasingly focus on how to go about securing investment in their local communities. And development is a good way of securing that investment.
So, it follows that now is an ideal time for developers to be engaging with their communities and with councils to ensure that a development pipeline can follow and be part of that recovery.
If you are looking for support in how to go about doing this, Portland has developed a guide to digital engagement drawing on our experience from across real estate and wider sectors. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to learn more
The recovery is a way off. But it will come around sooner than you think. The actions we take now will define how quickly real estate will recover – and ultimately how successful that recovery will be.