Why startups could provide the solution to Britain’s housing crisis

Now is a precarious time in public policy.


Amidst Brexit uncertainty and the long-standing problem posed by an ageing population, the government has been forced to cast a wide net in the search for policy solutions.

Arguably the most intractable challenge for policy makers has been the ongoing housing crisis.

Demand is outpacing supply, and the government has not yet been able to increase house building efforts to ensure there is enough housing stock to meet the country’s needs.

The time has come to realise the government cannot address this challenge on its own. So what can be done? Quite simply, it should be looking to partner with startups and tech businesses – something this country has in abundance. Here’s why…

Leveraging tech to the UK Government’s advantage

The government has already had some success integrating tech products into key parts of the public sector.

For instance, some key functions of the NHS have been digitised in recent years with digital GP Babylon now fulfilling a key consumer facing role.

However, it’s an online staffing marketplace Patchwork that probably provides the best template for how tech startups can overcome the challenges facing the public sector.

The company has transformed temporary staffing in the healthcare sector by connecting vacant shifts with available clinicians. By eliminating the need for agencies, the app helps trusts manage their temporary staffing requirements while saving them significant amounts of money.

Indeed, officials from across Whitehall are increasingly looking to technology to improve their operations.

For example, the Department for International Development is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and satellite technology to provide better population estimates.

This can help to improve the planning and delivery of aid operations and vaccination projects.

However, despite experiencing some encouraging successes in key policy areas, the government has hitherto been loathe to form similar partnerships with startups in the property space.

And in part, this reflects the government’s inability to commit to a coherent strategy when it comes to housing policy.

Partnering with PropTech startups

Fortunately, the UK PropTech sector contains a litany of dynamic startups that are working feverishly to develop new technology-based solutions to Britain’s housing crisis.

Take LandInsight for example.

The company operates a data platform that allows developers and buyers to effectively find new land opportunities. Emoov, the digital estate agent is another example of a company thriving in this space.

As someone who has worked as part of large corporates before launching my own startup, I’ve seen the value that innovative startups can bring to large organisations, particularly legacy companies who have become too big to meaningfully innovate.

By outsourcing innovation to domestic startups, the government would give themselves the best possible chance of discovering a lasting solution to the housing crisis.

These days, the unfortunate reality is that public bodies have to deliver more services on ever dwindling budgets under ever more scrutiny.

This means that in order to become more efficient, public bodies such as the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government must embrace a radical approach built around leveraging cutting-edge technology.

Crucially, this means actively partnering with and providing funding for UK startups who are aptly positioned to provide solutions to important issues.

Ultimately, it is only by harnessing the best that the UK tech sector has to offer that the government can begin to implement long-term solutions to significant policy challenges like the one posed by Britain’s persistent lack of affordable and accessible housing.