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Government to provide local data to proptechs

Minister announces creation of a national index of brownfield site data and other initiatives to allow startups and property development companies to use public data to generate business

The UK government is advancing plans to provide local data to technology companies working in the property and development space to “drive a digital revolution” in the sector.

The new approach seeks to develop opportunities within the property technology (proptech) sector, which the government estimates to be worth over £6bn, while stimulating the property building industry.

“We’ve had revolutions in the way that financial services, online banking and transport are provided, turning once unimaginable possibilities into everyday realities. Now it’s the turn of the UK property market,” said housing minister Esther McVey.

“The UK property sector is on the cusp of a digital revolution. It’s time to harness new technology to unlock land and unleash the potential of housebuilders in all parts of the country and to revolutionise the way in which we buy homes,” she added.

The approach driven by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government will see the creation of a national index of brownfield data, where authorities will publish information according to new guidance, to help developers, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to quickly find brownfield land to build on.

Research has been carried out on ways to make that data more easily available from existing systems. Issues have been found, one of which being that most documentation is in PDF format, which makes it more difficult to find specific policy detail.

Development of a digital platform to tackle the problems and support the government’s desire to support companies in the sector is currently being considered, as well as involvement of the Geospatial Commission.

In addition, the government plans to open up data about Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs), which is used by some public sector bodies to authorise the acquisition of land and property.

“This technology could transform the way we find and purchase homes”
Esther McVey, housing minister

The idea is to use CPOs to create more business opportunities for proptechs, which could get access to energy performance certificates and the square footage information of properties.

The government argues this would enable more property development, as well as more transparency to citizens and regeneration and infrastructure projects, where there is a compelling case in the public interest.

According to McVey, the goal is to link builders with brownfield sites more effectively, but also use technology to “enhance how developers engage with local communities”, and modernise the way people buy and sell land and houses, “cutting the time it takes to get housing from the drawing board to families getting the keys”.

Ways in which the government imagines new technologies could help people include allowing communities to comment on planning applications using mobile tools and accessing interactive models of planned developments before they materialise.

New technologies could also support prospective homebuyers in calculating commute time when considering to buy a new home, as well as assistance in buying new property and exploring financing options through models such as gradual home ownership.

“Whatever homebuyers prioritise, whether it’s the quality of local schools, the probability of getting a seat on a train, or having easy access to leisure facilities, this technology could transform the way we find and purchase homes,” said McVey.

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