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“War is When They Kill Your Children”

Ethics and Modern Property Development
  • Michael Benfield
Part of the Research Issues in Real Estate book series (RIRE, volume 5)

Abstract

Drawing on recent European research (a thirty-two-case project inquiring into the decision processes surrounding permits for major private European development projects—Czech Republic two, England eleven, France five, Germany two, Hungary two, Italy five, Netherlands five) this article confronts the values, choices, and conduct seen as being involved in land and resource development. Viewing progressive changes in government, business, and social mores as unwittingly encouraging an operating environment of unexpected and unjustified license, it prompts real estate professionals to consider how the emerging imperative of sustainability1 will affect ethical standards and, through them, development practices. Conceiving development processes as driven by accountancy economics, (an economics primarily concerned with profit and loss and balance sheet calculation rather than wider capital considerations), it argues that these are prone to overlook many other forms of capital. Often masked by the common pursuit of cash profits, jobs, and monetary wealth, these include social, welfare, community, cultural, and various forms of resource, capital.

By definition, planning is concerned with futures. By default it appears to have become little more than a cipher for short-term political goals. Regulatory regimes, designed to protect rights and freedoms, are regularly being overridden2 and (notional) open local government replaced by covert, elitist decision-making practices. Placing democracy and due process under threat, a form of municipal entrepreneurialism may be emerging. This shows Yiftachel’s (1996) dark side of development control to facilitate not just social engineering but private profiteering. With no one to speak for the environment, Agenda 21 sustainability and subsidiarity (the principle adopted by the European Union that decision all should be taken at the lowest possible level) seem only of interest to cities if they serve the same ends. In the face of this, it is argued, real estate professionals have a moral obligation to protect land and resources for the benefit of countless future generations. To ignore this duty may prejudice the existence of both. Thus, with current ethics in the property industry seen as a sham, a means to replace or renew them is suggested.

Keywords

Real Estate Property Development Development Control Industry Practice Real Estate Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Benfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research in European Urban Environments (CREUE)University of Newcastle upon TyneUK

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