Outgrowing home ownership: the rise of build-to-rent homes

Image by Grant Lemons/ PEXELS

Image by Grant Lemons/ PEXELS

The home

2017 will be remembered as the year that voice recognition went mainstream. Thanks to Amazon Echo and Google Home, we can control almost all major appliances and systems in our homes, make purchases, and search for information just by speaking aloud. This is without doubt a huge step forward in the way we interact with the technology that supports and facilitates our personal lives.

But 2017 was also the year that saw a shift for many in something even more fundamental: the relationship they have with their home. 

In many countries, including the UK, the move from living in rented (and often shared) accommodation to a home that’s been purchased -- and so offers more freedom to be configuredto individual needs -- has traditionally been a rite of passage and a marker of feeling settled in a space. 

But the continued discrepancy between house prices and salaries in large cities -- in London the average house costs 12 times the average Londoner’s annual earnings -- means that buying a house is increasingly out of reach for many. In 2000, 60% of Londoners owned their own home, and 40% rented; by 2025, this trend will have reversed. 

This has led to high numbers of people fleeing the capital. According to analysis of official statistics, net outward migration from London reached 93,300 people in the first six months of 2016 - over 80% higher than five years earlier. This trend is particularly affecting public servants such as teachers and nurses. 

Put forward as a solution to address this, and the UK housing crisis in general, purpose-built blocks of rental homes have become increasingly popular over the last year. Already common in countries like the US, Germany and France, these flats are fast becoming an attractive investment for property developers and city firms eager to tap into the rising trend for long-term renting, as well as effectively meeting the needs of those that can’t afford to buy, but want the stability typically associated with owning their own home. Just over 80,000 rental homes are now either completed or planned across England, according to recent figures. 

Almost a fifth (16%) of the tenants already living at a recent build-to-rent development in Wembley Park, London, are key workers such as nurses, teachers, soldiers and police officers. At this development, rent includes utility bills and ultra-fast broadband. There are communal lounge areas complete with kitchenettes and Sky TV, a residents’ gym, screening room, and a 24-hour concierge. 

Taking communal living even further is the co-living phenomenon taking hold in both the UK and US. Property company The Collective launched its first location in Acton, London, last year and is due to open another 250-room block in east London late next year. 

Tenants in these blocks have a small bedroom with a bathroom and basic kitchenette as their private space. Other facilities, such as communal kitchens,gym, sauna, library, cinema room and a gallery space are shared. Some developments also offer co-working spaces with the intention of helping people network and boosting productivity. 

As well as the potential to save money and space, some have linked the increasing popularity of co-living to the rise in self-employment and people working from home; the number of Britons working from home has risen by 800,000 to 4.2m in the last decade and at least 35% of Londoners currently work from home for a period of time each week.

As our lives become more agile and less fixed, the range of potential living arrangements is expanding and people’s attitudes to their home environment are naturally shifting alongside. 

Bronwen Morgan, Flamingo