We run housing policy for three European cities. Here's what governments must do next

(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Alongside cities across the world, Barcelona, London and Paris are dealing with a devastating health crisis, affecting every aspect of our economy and society. The impact of Covid-19 is made all the more dangerous as it magnifies the pre-existing housing crisis.

In 2018 our cities rallied together at the United Nations to denounce the housing crisis affecting cities across the world. The Cities for Adequate Housing Declaration we all signed listed numerous factors that were putting at risk our goal of ensuring ‘equitable, inclusive, and just’ cities. These included a lack of national and state funding, market deregulation, the growing power of global corporations and increasing competition for scarce real estate. All these issues have been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some work has been done to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on our cities’ housing sectors. In France, Spain and the UK, national governments have banned evictions during the pandemic, and we have all made enormous efforts to provide temporary accommodations for the homeless, with more than 700 accommodated in Barcelona, 1500 in Paris, and 1400 in London. A variety of subsidy schemes are being set up to help households endure the first economic effects of the crisis. However, even if these measures have helped in the short term, much more needs to be done to protect households from the long-term impacts.

Tenant protection and financial support measures need to be strengthened to prevent displacement. The current crisis should not be a pretext to tip the scales in favor of speculative investment but an opportunity to construct a stronger safety net for tenants. We demand more legal powers to regulate the real estate market and increased welfare support in order to fight speculation and provide greater security of tenure for tenants.

The current halt on evictions has demonstrated what governments can do when they put people’s lives first. We ask all levels of government to work together on a plan to avoid a massive wave of evictions after the moratoriums come to an end. It is urgent that we find fair solutions for tenants and homeowners who have accrued rent and mortgage payment arrears as a direct result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

We also demand national governments provide more resources to strengthen the public and non-profit housing stock to ensure our economic recovery. Cities need to play an important role in the stable provision of affordable housing, both through new construction and the preservation and upgrading of the existing stock, as well as in the promotion of local economic development.

Emergency measures such as the temporary mobilisation of hotel rooms and housing for the homeless have shown that ending homelessnesss in our cities is possible. To make this change permanent we need properly funded public services and welfare systems that prevent homelessness and ensure nobody needs to sleep rough.

There is also an opportunity in the conversion of underutilised tourist accommodation into long-term affordable housing for our residents. We ask that the appropriate regulations and funding are put in place to make this happen.

Cities across the world are working together to share knowledge and find solutions to the housing emergency we all face. These issues were discussed at an online seminar on 22 May organised by the UCLG network of local governments. It’s clear that we need the involvement of all levels of government, from the European Union to our nation states, to address the specific needs and challenges we face. The current crisis is both an enormous challenge as well as an opportunity to work across the political spectrum, in partnership with civil society and the private sector, to guarantee the right to adequate housing for all. Local governments from around the world will continue to do everything they can to achieve it.

Ian Brossat is the Deputy Mayor for Housing at the Paris City Council in France. Lucía Martín is Housing Councilor at the Barcelona City Council in Spain. Tom Copley is the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development at the Greater London Authority in the UK.


Investor Insights: Mubadala on how startups can get investment-ready

Mubadala is an investment company with $232bn worth of assets under management and also a backer of Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 ecosystem for growing tech companies.

Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures – Mubadala Capital, spoke to Verdict, and shared his insights on what he looks for in startups, and how to secure funding at every stage, for every sector.

Which is more important to investors, a good idea and business model or good leadership?

It’s often said that you invest in people, not companies, and certainly for us, it’s vital to partner with people that we want to be in business with, so I’d have to say both a strong business model and a trusted leadership team are equally critical factors for a business to attract investors. When we make an investment, we’re forming a long-term partnership with the company’s management team. Especially in the early stages of business growth, the insight, expertise, and passion of the founding team are often the magic ingredients for success, while at a larger scale, trusted corporate oversight and skilled management are vital for long-term sustainability.

At the same time, value creation is our priority, and so we analyse all our investment opportunities for a clear, realistic growth plan based on a distinctive value proposition. It’s the combination of both elements that creates a winning formula.

What do you look for when assessing an investment?

At Mubadala, partnership is at the centre of our investment approach, so we are always looking for mutually beneficial opportunities where our involvement can generate real value. Both financial and societal returns are intrinsic to the long-term value we create. Beyond capital, this also means that we consider how an investment partnership will contribute to the UAE’s development and progress as part of our decision making.

We look for investment opportunities where bringing our expertise to bear can really be the critical factor in accelerating a company’s growth trajectory while forming a sustainable long-term partnership.

Our aim is to make Abu Dhabi a world-class innovative ecosystem with initiatives like our MENA fund which is already supporting some exciting startups based within Hub71, or through partnerships that attract global businesses to Abu Dhabi.

Left to right: WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey and Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures, Mubadala Capital, Mubadala Investment Company

What single thing could entrepreneurs do to make their business more attractive to potential investors?

It may sound obvious, but the one thing that entrepreneurs must possess when hoping to attract investors is a solid business plan. Venture capital firms are looking for businesses which they can help grow, and then at some stage exit. It is therefore no good just relying on what the business has achieved to date. There has to be projections about the possibilities for the startup over the next three to five years. The more detailed and accurate these models are, as well as the suitability and sustainability of the business proposition itself, the more likely the entrepreneur will be to attract investment.

How hard is it to assess innovative new technologies?

Innovation is all about trying to do something that no one else has achieved before and partnering with companies that are trying to push the boundaries of our collective progress, which is incredibly exciting. Mubadala has always been a leader in the technology and innovation space, and we are always looking for interesting opportunities to enter pioneering new areas, with investments in ambitious companies like Waymo, Recursion and Reef.

Getting accurate valuations in the current climate, let alone what’s coming down the tracks in 2021, is of course a challenge for evaluating business performance and investment opportunities, but we are still seeing opportunities.

What are the key metrics that management teams fail to measure most often?

While every industry has specific metrics that management teams must be aware of, there are some general parameters that all entrepreneurs should consider when looking to grow their business. The metrics management teams use most often to assess, manage, and communicate their performance are typically focused on financial measures, particularly revenue and profitability.

One issue that is common for startups management teams is that they are so focused on developing a quality product or service that they forget to keep track of basic aspects of running a nascent business, such as cash flow and cash burn rate. In the early days of a company, maintaining control of your cash is a fundamental principle.

What lessons are there to be learnt from the corporate world for tech startups?

Smaller businesses should look to big corporates in a similar sector for tips and ideas, as well as ascertain where gaps may lie to which they can exploit. One of the first areas that can be replicated is embedding strong corporate governance. You should treat corporate governance not as a burden, but as an investment in an asset that will help you to upscale your business over time.

What are the advantages for investors within Abu Dhabi?

With the region’s best regulated financial centres – Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), an award-winning international financial center, has rapidly become one of the world’s most desirable destinations for foreign investors.

ADGM is regulated by the Financial Service Regulatory Authority (FSRA) and is the first financial institution in the Middle East and North Africa to directly apply common law in its entirety, ensuring the highest level of investor protection. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi enjoys political stability, one of the largest reserves of oil in the world, and a diversified economy that has attracted some of the world’s largest multinationals.