A recent local government event highlighted the sector’s steady digital transformation – evidence that authorities at all levels are increasingly willing to consider and adopt tech solutions.
That’s according to PayProp, whose MD Neil Cobbold was invited to speak at the event in question at the end of March (the Institute of Government and Public Policy’s Second Annual National Local Government Event).
The day-long event included speakers and exhibitors from local councils, tech firms, suppliers and others, and focused on how councils are addressing issues such as funding, climate change, technology, commercialisation, and delivering affordable housing through collaboration and innovation.
During his seminar session, Cobbold brought policymakers up to speed on client money in the private rented sector, anti-money laundering rules, the need to embrace technology in future regulations, and the future of digital payments including cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
PropTech collaboration with governments
The Covid-19 pandemic prompted many in the property industry to seek out technological solutions to the challenges it posed.
Now, the government is getting on board too, collaborating with tech companies to both tackle issues in the housing sector and improve communities.
In a recent announcement, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed that £3.25 million from the PropTech Engagement Fund will go towards its adoption of digital tools to improve planning systems. What’s more, 3D interactive maps and virtual reality will be used to make it easier for communities to visualise proposed developments.
Cobbold explained: “Collaboration between government, estate and letting agents and PropTech companies can reap various benefits. With the right tools and the knowledge of how to use them, we can collectively increase trust and transparency in the industry.”
Embrace technology for smarter regulation
Cobbold continues: “Following the easing of lockdown restrictions the rental market has bounced back extraordinarily, yet the private rented sector is currently experiencing an unparalleled shortage of housing stock as agencies and investors face an increasing regulatory and tax burden, causing them to avoid further investment or even quit the sector.”
“The agents who use technology to streamline processes can overcome that challenge more easily, but the government can help them out by writing regulations that are easier to comply with and take into account the tools that agents have.”
Cobbold also points out that regulators need to consider the future of client money in the private rented sector – including the role of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Crypto payments are growing more common, as people – particularly those from Gen Z – are seeing the value of digital currencies.
Cobbold concludes: “The technology to improve services is already out there, it just needs to be used to its full capacity. As we said, new challenges involving cryptocurrency and blockchain will arise over the next five to 10 years and we all need to be prepared for them. Because politicians are writing these regulations more or less from scratch, they can build in tech-enabled compliance processes from day one, avoiding the pitfalls of legacy legislation.”
“Central and local governments have both shown a willingness to adopt PropTech solutions, but we can go further and faster. Policymakers have an opportunity to make regulation more effective and less burdensome for the industry.”