Renting may be becoming the norm for large swathes of the UK’s population, certainly the under-40s, but a fundamental mindset change still needs to take place away from ingrained assumptions owning a home is preferable to renting it.
For many the idea of lifelong renting is something to strive away from at all costs. But renting should be seen as a positive lifestyle choice rather than a social or economic curse. I believe that the change in attitude will come as the range and standard of rental options available evolve.
Where it was previously a smaller segment of the market serviced by private landlords with sub-scale operations, the significant increase in demand coupled with public sector austerity has meant there is now a need for long term investors to fill the gap.
The good news is that the upswing in renting is coinciding with the development of a professional Build to Rent sector, with institutions looking to provide a new class of large scale, purpose-built rental stock. The strategic case for the sector is compelling. You need only to look at international examples, such as the US multi-family sector, or Dutch or German models, to see that where good quality large volume options exist there has been an overwhelming shift in attitudes towards renting.
Enhancing economic productivity through greater geographical flexibility, as well as providing affordability for those that are unable or choose not to join the owner occupation sector, this is about delivering higher quality, customised space, together with a more professional and flexible standard of tenant service that truly satisfies elective renters needs. It's also about accommodating all age groups and demographics, from retirees and families to time poor young professionals.
I believe there's a real opportunity to deliver well-designed homes in accessible, well-connected urban locations across the UK of a sufficient scale that they can be cost efficient and rental levels can be set at affordable levels.
In other words: this is essentially an opportunity to redefine what renting means in this county. A 24-hour concierge, onsite car-sharing clubs, state-of-the-art cycle facilities, gyms and integrated click-and-collect services are all potential features that we might expect to see carefully incorporated from the earliest design stages.
For us this is about using long term institutional money to support the future looking needs of the UK and working with forward thinking local authorities and best in-class partners to deliver this vision.