Affordable Housing: PR Approach When Viability Issues Arise

Viability issues on property development and public relations are rarely best buddies. Just ask Earls Court.

A recent news article highlights how a significant planning dispute could erupt over the new plans for the site of the former Earls Court exhibition centre.

Labour-run council Hammersmith and Fulham accuse the developers of not including enough affordable housing in the plans. The council’s policy is that all new sites must have 50% affordable housing, whereas the developers only offer 35%.

Earls Court is not alone.

Like others, their situation can represent a tricky communication challenge. The development viability issue could result in more negative press coverage, public opposition, and legal challenges.

What are property development viability issues?

Viability issues in property development refer to challenges that arise when the proposed project is not financially feasible. In other words, the development is considered unviable when the projected project costs exceed the projected income. Developers may then scale back or abandon their development plans, as it no longer makes financial sense for them to proceed.

Several factors can contribute. For example, increased construction costs, rising land prices, changes in market conditions, or regulatory constraints can all impact the feasibility of a project. In addition, issues related to infrastructure delivery, planning consent, and environmental regulations can also cause viability problems.

Ultimately, viability issues can have significant implications for all parties involved in the development process, from the developer to the local council and the wider community. Failure to resolve these problems can result in project delays, abandonment, or a scaled-down development.

Development viability issues can also have far-reaching implications on the entire project and the surrounding community. These issues can lead to increased housing costs and a lack of affordable housing options, causing the displacement of low-income families and individuals. Access to affordable housing can also affect the local economy, making it difficult for businesses to attract and retain employees.

The declining quality of life of the local community can even lead to social unrest and a loss of trust in the developers and the local government. The long-term effects of development viability issues can impact the community, and the developers may face significant backlash and reputational damage.

What about viability and developer reputation?

Failing to meet affordable housing requirements can lead to accusations of neglecting social responsibility, damaging a developer’s reputation and brand image.

Any negative perception of a developer’s brand can have long-lasting consequences and may affect their ability to attract future investors, partners, or customers. Therefore, property developers must be proactive in addressing viability issues to protect their reputation and maintain public trust.

But how?

Acknowledge and Address the Issue

The first step is acknowledging the issue openly and assuring the public that you’re working towards a solution.

Rebekah Paczek, director of public affairs and community relations at the Earls Court Development Company, said they would deliver the maximum affordable housing possible on this challenging site. This reassurance will help to build trust with the public. Providing it is backed up with actions that justify the promise!

Be Transparent

Transparency is key. Transparency helps to build trust and can help to prevent negative media coverage. Be honest about your challenges, how you address them, and how long it will take to resolve them.

Engage with Stakeholders

Engage with stakeholders, including the local council and the public, to help build support for the project. Listen to their concerns and take them seriously. Address their concerns openly and honestly, and inform them about the project’s progress.

Be Proactive

Be proactive in managing the issue. Develop a communications plan that addresses the problem and how you plan to resolve it. Stay on top of the news cycle and be prepared to respond quickly to any negative coverage.

Development viability issues can be challenging for any communications professional.

Yes. It’s a tricky problem, but there are ways to improve a frustrating situation. You can manage the issue and come out on top with a proactive and transparent approach. Acknowledge and address the issue, engage with stakeholders, and proactively manage the problem. With these strategies, you can navigate the public relations challenges caused by development viability issues.