The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Bartlett symposium explores private sector investment as a solution to the affordable housing crisis

14 August 2018

BSCPM event brings together leading researchers, industry experts and public sector stakeholders to discuss the financial viability and investment dynamics of affordable housing in the UK.

Affordable housing symposium

On Friday 22 June 2018, The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management hosted a one day symposium - The Case of Affordable Housing: Private Sector Investment in Social Infrastructure - exploring the role of private investment in housing affordability. Held at The Bartlett's award winning building at 22 Gordon Street, the symposium was supported by Bartlett Innovation funding awarded to Dr Stanimira Milcheva.

Lack of affordable housing can have a significant impact on productivity and economic growth worldwide, and may lead to increased segregation and inequality within communities. To date, in the UK the supply of housing at affordable levels has been approached primarily though the provision of housing schemes such as shared ownership, build-to-rent, and the rising market of the private rented sector, which along with government-led policies like Help-to-Buy have attempted to resolve housing supply and demand problems.

The symposium brought together leading academic researchers in public policy, urban planning, real estate and economics, joining representatives from local authorities and government and industry financers to explore alternative solutions to the housing affordability crisis faced by the UK and the role of private sector investment.

Academic paper session

The symposium began with three paper presentations from researchers working in the real estate economics and finance field. View the slides from each presentation:

Papers demonstrated ways in which the private sector is involved in the provision of affordable housing – either through subsidies, as discussed by Luque and Carozzi, Hilber and Yu, or without any subsidies for already existing income-producing buildings. A key message that emerged was that incentivisation is essential to encourage developers and investors to provide housing at affordable rents or prices. 

Rising Rents: Growing Challenges and Emerging Solutions - keynote speech from Prof Ingrid Gould Ellen

The keynote speech was delivered by Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen from the Furman Center at New York University. Professor Ellen’s research interests centre on housing and urban policy. 

Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen, Furman Center New York, delivers keynote speech at Affordable Housing symposium at UCL

Prof Ellen addressed the challenges produced by rising rents, which include stagnant wage growth, increasing rent burdens, poverty impact on child attainment and 'NIMBYism' – resistance to unwanted development, often due to concerns about home values or gentrification. While over the past 50 years rents have grown by over 50% for the 75th percentile of earners, incomes have only grown by 9%. This looks even starker for those in the bottom quartile of earners, with rents up 95% and incomes by comparison increasing by only 7% over the same time period. 

This has significant consequences for families including the risk of overcrowding, eviction and a negative impact on children’s education. There is also a broader societal effect, possibly limiting economic growth and increasing segregation and inequality. 

Stanimira Milcheva, symposium convener, commented:

“Ingrid gave a great overview of why doing research that helps resolve the housing affordability crisis is not merely of interest for housing researchers but is one of the key global challenges which our societies around the world face. We need collective action and determination.”

View the slides from Professor Ellen's presentation [pdf, 1918KB]

Watch the keynote film

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/55450179

Round table discussion

The symposium's round table discussions brought together participants from across the public and private sectors, including local councillors, industry directors and policy officers. Two discussions, chaired by symposium conveners Dr Stanimira Milcheva and Dr Daniel Fitzpatrick, considered current affordable housing schemes and potential financial solutions through two key questions:

  • Models and solutions - what are the models of delivery for affordable housing?
  • Critical assessments and futures - what financial tools are being used to deliver affordable housing?

In particular, the round tables' focus was on the role of the private sector in the provision of affordable housing. The first group explored definitions of affordable housing and perceptions of what that constitutes along with current schemes of affordable housing provision in different local authorities. The second round table explored financial instruments which are used to finance affordable housing.

Discussions highlighted the diversity of approaches local authorities take in the provision of affordable housing and the willingness of the private sector (from small start-ups to large institution investors) to engage in financing affordable housing.

First round table discussion: Models and solutions

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/64256142

Second round table discussion: Critical assessment and futures

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/20310982

This symposium is the first in a series of events and publications from The Bartlett that will create dialogue between academics, the public sector and private sector in order to better understand the challenges each stakeholder is facing, as well as to showcase the range of affordable housing schemes and financing solutions and their viability. 

Dr Milcheva concludes:

"Academics should adopt a multi stakeholder approach and closely work together with policy makers, social housing providers and institutional investors - different players are driven by different motives which in most cases do not align."