6th July 2015

GeoVation winners Land Unlocked at HouseParty 2015


A guest blog by Andy Reeve of Land Unlocked, one of the winners of our Housing Challenge.

HouseParty is a UK housing ‘unconference’ held every year at the same time as the more classical CIH Housing conference, aiming to showcase the best in innovation, disruption and new developments in the UK housing sector. It was great to be invited along as representatives of Impact Hub Birmingham to talk about the role data and community development could have in democratising housing development.


The session gave us a chance to share our thinking behind our GeoVation idea and to discuss this with a group of experienced and interested housing professional. After spending the last few months analysing a large amount of Land Registry and OS data and talking with large landowners, it was nice to socialise the idea wider and get some feedback on the concept.

Rather than simply present a version of Land Unlocked (the new name for Democratising Development), we wanted to embrace the spirit of unconferences and get a debate going amongst the attendees in our session. We released a blog prior to the event outlining our vision and after a brief introduction we broke off into three separate groups to ask three questions:

  1. What do you think about the idea and what problems can you see with trying to implement this idea?

The reaction was broadly positive with a few questions around financing the project, such as who would pay for the development of the housing on identified sites and how would you value the land? Does the land really need to bought or could it be leased instead? There were also some interesting points on overarching planning consent schemes which are currently used by the MOD and some other agencies.

The other main point was around the data itself and how widely the information should or could be shared so that other people could use it.

  1. Does UK Housing really want to be disrupted?

This seemed like quite a clearcut one amongst the groups, saying that the sector and those in control of it probably don’t want it to be disrupted but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t. There was a broad consensus that volume housing production will never really be disrupted but that there was still scope for a range of small scale projects.

  1. What would you want to see from a demonstration/prototype of the idea?

Images, videos, case studies and most importantly the story. Everyone wants to know about the journey and how different people are involved at different stages in the process. Alongside the financial implications of a scheme like this it seemed that the community you can build around an idea like this are just as important.

Overall the opportunity to discuss the GeoVation project with everyone was really good and like with most conferences we also made some great connections in the coffee break. One of these was with the Community Land Trusts Network and we plan to explore how we can collaborate in the future. All in all it was a great chance to talk about innovation in the housing market and GeoVation whilst imaging a better way to build the houses we so desperately need.