Housing minister Esther McVey has announced plans to "bring about a digital revolution in the property sector" by opening up local data to UK proptech firms.

The Conservative MP for Tatton yesterday pledged to open up Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) data including energy performance certificates and square footage information on properties and introduce a national index of all brownfield data to help developers to find brownfield land to build on.

©iStock/SasinParaksa
©iStock/SasinParaksa

McVey claimed that the data would offer enormous benefits to both homebuyers and the property sector. 

"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," she said.

"And new technology will link builders to brownfield sites more easily, enhance how developers engage with local communities, help builders deliver new homes and modernise the way we buy and sell land and houses, cutting the time it takes to get housing from the drawing board to families getting the keys."

A press release from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government suggested that the plans could give communities models and interactive maps of planned developments and allow them to comment on planning applications online, on phones and on the go. They could also allow prospective home buyers to use commute time calculators when they are looking at properties, explore financing options, and receive step-by-step assistance on the buying process.

Developers, meanwhile, could be enabled to identify sites so that more houses are built more quickly quickly locate suitable brownfield sites suitable for development.

Sector response

The government estimates that the proptech sector is potentially worth £6 billion in the UK and already receives 10 percent of global proptech investment.

These plans could help it further grow by giving startups and SMEs that lack resources access to tools that can analyse multiple datasets.

Read next: Best proptech startups in the UK

Representatives of the property sector were cautiously optimistic about the plans. 

Michael Stone, founder and CEO of new home specialists Stone Real Estate, argued that the digital strategy would only reach its potential if the government added easier access to public land.

"Any initiative to open up land supply and provide greater transparency within the house building process should be welcomed," Stone said in a statement.

"After all, we’re building 200,000 new homes a year nationally while the reality is that we need to deliver 300,000, so that’s some deficit that needs to be addressed. However, whilst the Housing Minister's announcements today on promoting digitisation and better brownfield site identification will be welcomed, perhaps they should go a step further and start mandating that public land is also utilised more readily.

"There’s an ironic reality that while the government has failed to bolster house building via a number of recent initiatives, a very real solution remains right under their nose. The swathes of untapped land that could be used to develop and deliver more homes are largely controlled by the very public sector that is responsible for, you guessed it, building these homes in the first place."

Read next: How Proportunity is helping homebuyers by predicting future prices

Others were more sceptical about the value of the data to lower-income citizens.

"Govt should stimulate the housing market & end class-distinction, it has to be prepared to listen to low-income households with a greater understanding of their needs & greater cooperation if it is to adequately address the real issues people are confronted with on a daily basis," property developer Leciester & Leicester responded in a tweet.