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Property needs to talk – and walk – social impact

Social Impact Property
By Ben Monteith
20 February 2024
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

First published in Property Week

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader and likely incoming Secretary State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, recently argued our housing crisis is “a real problem of supply.”

She continued: “[People] are living in homes they know are not good for their health… they also know if they raise these concerns and the property is condemned, they’ll end up homeless… or because we’ve not been tackling supply, some people have been taken 20, 30, even 200 miles away from where they live and so their children can’t go to their local school, they can’t get to their job.”

That narrative is revealing. It says a lot about what a Labour government would mean for the property industry: that it sees business as central to delivering social impact. That the supply-side reforms the industry can deliver, if properly supported, can tackle some inextricably linked challenges.

Labour is co-opting the language those in the property industry with a focus on social impact have been using for years; if we deliver brilliant places, we see positive outcomes for people’s wallets, their health and wellbeing, their educational outcomes and social mobility.

This adds up to a clear direction of travel for the UK’s real estate sector. The property industry should lean into the language of social impact – and, to do that, genuinely embrace social impact in delivery, including through the principles espoused by the likes of Social Value UK.

Many in the sector effectively use the language of social impact in their communications to demonstrate what quality places deliver. And it’s those who tell a bigger brand story through their work, and have the proof-points to back it up through delivery embedded in best practice, that are in the best position.

If we see Angela Rayner – a potential future leader – enter Downing Street later this year for Labour’s first meeting around the Cabinet table in 14 years, those who embrace the language, narrative and practice of social impact will find a friendly government in power that enables them to do what they do best: create brilliant places that are better for people, planet and profit.