Mapping sites for future housing with Urban Intelligence

Communities in the UK are in desperate need of affordable housing, in the right place. However, 16% of local authorities achieved less than 75% of their housing target. In the year 2019/20, this resulted in a shortfall of 56,000 homes. One of the drivers of this phenomenon is that they are poorly equipped to assess the viability of social housing — so private developers have a massive information advantage in negotiations.

Greater transparency in planning through Urban Intelligence

Urban Intelligence apply cutting-edge software development and planning expertise to geospatial data. For anyone who is new to the proptech space, geospatial data is information about the location on the earth’s surface. This includes anything you can think of — houses, people, or environmental phenomena.

Through bringing key expertise together, Urban Intelligence is on a mission to disrupt the planning system by giving their clients more insights than ever before. For example, through Placemaker, users identify more development opportunities and prioritise sites with the greatest potential. This is particularly useful for local authorities, who struggle to align the plans put forward by developers, with their strategic goal of increased housing provision. That’s why we’re excited to announce our investment in them.

Through Placemaker, planning officers can access data that enables them to challenge viability assessments made in planning applications, reducing the aforementioned information asymmetry. Doing so will increase the likelihood of affordable housing targets being met as it puts power back into the hands of planning departments. Planning officers become better equipped at delivering much needed housing, including for households on lower incomes.

When using Placemaker, the London Borough of Hounslow analysed 191 times more plots of land than through conventional methods. Urban Intelligence offers an AI-driven web platform that enabled the analysis of all potential sites in the borough, around 115,000 of them. All sites were appraised based on the local policy requirements, giving council officers a comprehensive overview of development opportunities.

By co-producing their tool with their public sector customers, they have built an award-winning tool of immense value for the sector. The recognition and traction to date are proof of that. Since launching PlaceMaker, the tool has been rolled out to eight local authorities including Birmingham City Council. This is an immense achievement as Birmingham City Council is aiming to deliver over 33,000 homes between 2021 and 2026.

We are convinced that Urban Intelligence’s talented team of data scientists, planning specialists and software developers will disrupt the planning space and create meaningful impact.

Liz Choonara, Head of Enterprise & Innovation at Crisis, said:

“I’m delighted to welcome Urban Intelligence to the Crisis investment portfolio. We know that to end homelessness in the UK we need to increase the supply of affordable, safe and secure housing. To tackle this challenge, we need to highlight and invest in new technologies and talent that could really make a difference. Urban Intelligence addresses and fixes key shortcomings in the planning process which are slowing down and preventing the increase of housing supply nationally. Bringing together Urban Intelligence’s expertise and technology with Crisis’s deep understanding of the root causes of homelessness offers a powerful partnership.”

Daniel Mohamed, CEO and Founder of Urban Intelligence

“Ending homelessness is an issue that is close to many of our hearts working in real estate and the built environment. I personally experienced homelessness growing up, and I am aware first-hand of the critical importance that having a safe and affordable place to live is to oneʼs identity, confidence and general well-being. A home provides a vital foundation of stability that is a prerequisite to unlocking the enormous potential of every individual. We are delighted to associate our own business, hard work and actions to digitally disrupt the planning system with the amazing work that Crisis carries out to end Homelessness across the country.” said Daniel Mohamed, CEO and Founder of Urban Intelligence.

Our Plans together

Urban Intelligence will make use of this investment from Crisis to further develop and market their PlaceMaker service to local authorities. We’re excited to join the ranks of other institutional investors such as Pi Labs, Ordnance Survey, and the Development Bank of Wales.

Aside the working capital, Crisis will generate awareness amongst their local authority partners for their service. Through the insights of the Venture Studio’s lived experience panel, internal experts and research capacity we will support the development of additional insights for planning officers.

We would like to thank all our supporters to date and particularly players of People’s Postcode Lottery. To make even more investments into companies that accelerate the end of homelessness, the Venture Studio is looking for:

  • Start-ups with a scalable solution which help people into affordable housing or secure a stable income
  • Volunteers to support our venture activities, especially a Proptech industry expert
  • Philanthropic funding

If you would like to get involved, please reach out to venture.studio@crisis.org.uk

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