How to help London stay successful – a snapshot of Ed Glaeser’s recent visit to our city

By Lucian Smithers, Director of Sales and Marketing, Pocket

At Pocket we have all read ‘The Triumph of the City’ by Ed Glaeser. Glaeser’s views about what makes cities great and how they can remain successful give heavyweight academic substance to Pocket’s belief in delivering starter homes for London’s city makers – you could even say we’re groupies.

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So you can imagine our excitement at the prospect of hearing him talk in the UK last month at Warwick Business school’s outpost in the Shard.  He was also interviewed in the Guardian, and even better, he popped in to visit Pocket and hear more about our philosophy and business model – we think he liked it!

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Glaeser’s work focuses on the power of successful cities. Note the word “successful.” His studies cover huge geographical and historical distances to find the lessons about how great cities have managed to thrive and in some cases come back from the brink.  And his visit to London meant he gave some thought to the similarities, and differences, between the UK and our friends across the Atlantic.  He pulls out the simplest observations from a huge set of data and experiences, and here are some of the nuggets of genius that we took away for London: (more…)

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Unlocking London’s Housing Potential – what more can we do?

Last year, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) produced a very useful report into housing in London, ‘Getting our house in order’.  The report aimed to build a ‘business case’ for the creation of more homes in the Capital, noting the urgent need for more homes at all levels in London, and urging Government (national, regional and local) to work together to deliver more homes for London’s workforce.

This week LCCI has published a follow-up paper, Unlocking London’s Housing Potential’, focusing on one of the main recommendations in their original report – the release of public land for housing. Public land release is especially important for the development of affordable housing yet, as Pocket is quoted as saying in the report, it can take up to four times longer to acquire land and planning on public sector sites in London than private acquisitions.  This can be crippling for a small developer like Pocket.

Housing for the people who make London tick

More needs to be done to support the development of housing in London, especially housing that is specifically designed for the crucial workforce that keeps the city ticking. The report highlights that ‘51% of London firms believe the lack of housing… was the issue having the most impact on their business…’.  London needs the right kind of housing in the right locations in order to keep these talented and valuable people living in, and contributing to, their communities.  We have been banging this drum since Pocket started building affordable homes, so it’s great to have more voices added to this call. (more…)

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Marcon Place E8 – nearly there

Marcon Place E8 will be the next Pocket building to welcome residents – 28 city makers will be moving into their very first homes, just a stone’s throw from Hackney Downs station, within the next couple of months.  We’re in the final throes of construction, and the Pocket team went to check on progress last week.  This handsome brick building is looking really good, especially in the Spring sunshine!  It was amazing to stand in the courtyard and imagine the activity this central communal outdoor space will be seeing over the years to come.  The external stairwells have a striking red paint finish, with lovely tactile timber hand rails, and there’s specially-designed timber slatting to allow views into the courtyard.  We’re introducing the residents to each other this week at a local wine bar, and now all we need is a move in date!  The last few weeks of a construction project are always tight and slightly stressful as we try to achieve all the sign-offs and checks to confirm that the building is ready for occupation, and manage the expectations and excitement of the buyers.  Not long to go now, Pocket people!

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A Royal Visit

At Pocket, we’re proud to be a business that straddles the public and private sectors.  This is a pretty unusual position for a property developer, but for a property developer that focuses solely on the intermediate market, it’s an obvious position to take.  It means we work a lot with Local Authorities, and we talk to lots of private institutions about collaborating on projects and to raise money.  But one institution we hadn’t spoken to before last week, was the British Monarchy.  It hadn’t really occurred to us, despite the interest that certain members have traditionally shown in the built environment.

So when we were contacted by the office of HRH Princess Anne, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  HRH is President of CSCLeaders, a global leadership programme for 100 exceptional senior leaders, selected each year from government, business and NGOs across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.  This year’s challenge for the participants is ‘What makes a city smart?’; we talked to 10 delegates about Pocket’s role in delivering intermediate housing for London, and especially about how we bring together the public and private sectors to do so.

HRH Princess Anne joined us for part of the presentation, and stayed behind afterwards to hear more about Pocket’s specific projects and future plans.  She was a very engaged guest with well-informed views, and it was a pleasure to introduce her to Pocket.  As well as feeling honoured to have been selected by CSCLeaders to participate this year, we were also pretty thrilled to have such a distinguished guest, and enjoyed watching her discrete cavalcade slip in and out of Floral St – blink and you would have missed it!

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Homes for Britain rally, March 2015: Six quotes that rang true for me

This week saw over 2,000 people from Housing groups across the country converge on Parliament square and we went along to show Pocket’s support.  The objective was surprisingly simple – don’t let the housing crisis drop down the political agenda.

In the process of every general election, a range of issues start to shape the debate around the campaigns of the main parties but by the end, it’s the big beasts of Health, Education and Welfare that tend to dominate. So on Tuesday, housing associations, developers, architects, planners, social landlords and many more all came together to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The aim was to get senior politicians from all the major parties to commit to ending the housing crisis in a generation and delivering a comprehensive long term plan for housing within one year of taking office. And all credit to the organisers, they managed to get senior parliamentarians from all the major parties (and Nigel Farage) to commit to this aim. (more…)

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Pocket two bedroom – setting the standard for a compact two bedroom home

Customers love our Pocket one bedroom apartment design, but there are plenty of people out there who want an affordable, compact two bedroom home in London.  They might be friends buying together, a couple who have plans to start a family, or homeworkers who need the extra room.

Planning policy currently states that a two bedroom home must be a minimum of 61sqm in size, which allows for a household of three adults, and is generally unaffordable to the first time buyer market.

We thought that there might be a better offer for first time buyers looking for a two bedroom home, by using compact design to develop a proposal for two adults – a two bedroom two person offer (2b2p).

(more…)

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