Bob Weston speaks at the London Property Summit

Held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Whitehall, our Chairman and Chief Executive, Bob Weston, was a panellist at last week’s London Property Summit debate on ‘Housing Supply - delivering the right mix’. Chaired by Michael Lowndes, Executive Director at planning consultants Turley, the other panellists included Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property at the GLA; Killian Hurley, Chief Executive of Mount Anvil; Maxwell James, Chief Executive at Quintain; and Stephen Stone, Chief Executive of Crest Nicholson. The event was held of the day of the Autumn Statement, which was being delivered by George Osbourne in the House of Commons no more than 100 feet away. The news on Help to Buy, Stamp Duty and other policies on housing filtered through to the audience throughout the afternoon.  

When asked what could be done to make housing in the capital more affordable, Bob said:

“All of the local authorities, boroughs are big land owners. When they sell a piece of land, we get the rhetoric that it’s not all about the highest ticket price – it’s about the quality, it’s about our community. Almost to one, it’s the highest ticket. But the local authority could do something in their own right; they could actually sell some land at a better price to enable the homes to be affordable.”

On Weston Homes’ mix of tenures, Bob said:

“All of our developments are carrying a mix of different tenures – rented, shared equity. 28 percent of all products sold last year were Help to Buy. In anybody else’s term that is shared equity. The only difference is you don’t pay rent on the bit (you don’t own) and you own it all. I think that’s a better product. Today’s announcement that Help to Buy (equity loan) will go up to 40% (of the purchase price) is a really big move for affordability.” 

When asked what Weston’s current strategy was, Bob responded:

“Our first criteria is a product that’s not more than £1,000 per square foot. I look around at my staff and think how would they live? What can they buy? How can they buy it? So – we want to be sub £800 per square foot, but most importantly we want to be on a high speed transport node. To give you an example, find me a place next to the station that we can redevelop and deliver the sort of homes that people can afford. London Bridge, Fenchurch Street – 15, 20 minutes – where do you end up?”

When asked if the current property cycle would be longer than seven years or slow down, Bob responded:  

“The economy is stable. I can’t see more than five years in front; I don’t think anyone can really tell what’s going to happen. If you go back to previous cycles, they’ve been 17 years roughly. I don’t see any reason why this cycle will be significantly shorter. But – make no mistake – the market will fall over. It’s only a matter of when. But – for the immediate future – for the next five to six years I see it stable. I don’t see house prices booming. We’ve had our post-recession bubble and now we will see house prices move marginally above inflation on a flat line basis, taking away the peaks and troughs over that period of time.”

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