Embracing the young in 2021

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Embracing the young in 2021

2020 is edging towards a close. At the end of what has surely been one of the most disruptive years for real estate on record, it seems fitting that we use these final couple of working weeks to envisage the positive change we want to see for the sector in the year ahead.

Of course, we are living in an age where plans and resolutions are hindered somewhat by uncertainty – but that mustn’t stop real estate businesses striving to establish stronger foundations to inform decision making in 2021, when we hope the market will return to stable growth. Real estate is a very competitive industry at its core, but the consensus is that future prosperity relies on embracing the notion of community – namely understanding and responding to the needs of everyone within your community – throughout the project lifecycle.

Louise Houston, development manager for strategic land at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, raised an interesting point in EG this week; tomorrow’s community are the young people of today. In recent times, we’ve seen younger people engage with social and national issues, from climate change to national referendums, with more fervour than most but, as it stands, their voices are not being heard by the current planning system. Some 89% of 16 to 18-year-olds who responded to a recent survey by Grosvenor said they have never been asked about the future of their neighbourhood – which, most would agree, is quite astonishing.

So, what steps can real estate businesses take in 2021 to engage younger generations in the planning process and ensure we are creating truly mixed communities, where the built environment is reflective of the wants and needs of everyone?

Urban Land Institute suggests that real estate developers and planners need to meet young people where they feel comfortable, such as in school and online. Its Urban Plan UK initiative helps young people to gain insight into the inner workings of real estate and the role it plays in reviving and regenerating urban areas through specialist workshops.

In terms of online, the prevalence of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom has in 2020 become central to the way we do business – and should also be embraced as a key tool for engaging younger audiences in real estate development moving forward. Grosvenor is already doing this, holding Zoom sessions to gather feedback about changes to its London estate, while the UK government has also highlighted the need for digital tools to bridge the gap between young people and real estate in its latest planning reforms white paper.

These kinds of positive changes, which embrace the power of new platforms, bring urban studies in education to life, and actively engage with young people one-on-one to raise their involvement and aspirations, are vital if we are to revitalise real estate planning and consultation. At the moment, they are few and far between. However, like most, we at Innesco are looking forward to putting 2020 behind us as we head into 2021 with a fresh perspective. Who better than the younger generation, with their keen awareness of the latest innovations, technologies and lifestyles, to help shape our perspective, and ensure we create more successful places for the future?   

Esther Akinnuwa, Digital Community Manager, Innesco

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