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Land is brand.

23 April 2017 Pete Blackman

Land is brand. If you own it – you brand it. In different times you might do this for different reasons – if you were King you made sure everyone knew it was your big castle, or your boar filled forest where only you were allowed to hunt. Or if in contrast, you were the Quaker Cadbury’s, you built Bourneville with extensive parks and recreation for residents - though with no pubs to refresh yourself in of course. We all brand our land in some way – in terms of the building exterior and interior – and we all live in places which have evolved, over time, brands of their own.

Over the years, at Heavenly we’ve worked on a great deal of land, place and property projects. Our recent experience and analysis tells us that change is coming, and that the disruptors who have so transformed other sectors are eyeing property as their next target.

Why? Well 49% of all UK 20 to 24 year olds still live with their parents*. The situation is even worse in the US, where more 18-34’s live at home with their parents than any other accommodation arrangement, and this stay at home stickiness is worrying economists – “frequent moving in search of opportunity has long been an ingredient in American exceptionalism, and… its decline will dampen the nation’s dynamism. Young people, who normally move around most, seem especially stuck**.”

Yet even those who manage to move out will be tenants, not owners – they’re resentful rentennialls frustrated by the economic imbalance created by the housing market. Sajid David, UK Secretary of State for Communities has told the Home Builders Federation that the ‘biggest barrier to social mobility in the UK – is we are not building enough homes’.

So we’ve got an unequal, unfair sector that’s stuck in its ways. It’s restricting young people geographically, economically and socially – and don’t expect them to be sensitive snowflakes about it. They’re not at Mum and Dad’s because it’s a safe space – they’re there because it’s their only place. Expect them to disrupt this, change it, use technology and online collaboration to transform it. Every sector that creates friction in their lives – they reject and reinvent them.

At Heavenly we’ve worked with enlightened and entrepreneurial developers to create radically different new property brands such as Fizzy Living and Urby. But we expect the next call for help on brand to come from someone prepared to break the whole rental model and try and redress some of the inequality and unfairness outlined above.

Something like the low cost, essentials only ‘Naked Homes’ being backed by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, but that go even further.

For driverless cars may be being tested right now, but so is ownerless living. Squatting – which to many of us immediately conjures up images of 1970’s hippy communes or punk anarchists living in squalor – is on the rise globally. It even has different typologies now, such as those proposed by Dutch sociologist Hans Pruijt – deprivation, direct action, entrepreneurial, conservational, and political.

The interesting types here (I feel) are direct action and entrepreneurial. What if this excluded generation simply moved in to the 600,000 empty properties in England**** and created shared homes. But it’s illegal you might say. Well so was file sharing, and while the music business could shut Napster down, once the file sharing genie was out of the bottle, all that remained was to find a legal way to make it work.

The same is going to happen in property and home ownership. New generations challenge and change how sectors work. Our prediction is that they’re going to tear down the property sector and rebuild it in a way that works for them. They want to own too. They want to brand their land as much as any other generation.

*Office for National Statistics 2013
** The Economist, March 23rd 2017
**** Empty Homes Report September 2016

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