For years, society has sold us the dream of owning our own home. It’s been drilled into us as a desirable and inevitable milestone in life. We’re taught to see ownership as a symbol of success, and, in some cases, that there’s no acceptable alternative. In fact, independent social research by NatCen into British attitudes toward housing has shown that 86 per cent of people would choose to buy rather than rent their home.
While we’ve focused our energies on becoming the kings and queens of our own castles, however, the rental market has stagnated, haunted by Victorian properties creaking at the seams. Meanwhile, in markets like North America and mainland Europe, long-term renting is seen as not only acceptable but favourable to house ownership. For instance, in Las Vegas, half of households rent according to real estate site Trulia. Official statistics reveal that in Germany, only 46 per cent of people own their own homes.
With a strong community of renters, these countries have steamed ahead with innovative and attractive rental solutions, a popular choice being ‘build-to-rent’ - developments owned by a single party, built with the specific purpose of being rented. The UK, on the other hand, has only just begun to venture into this sector.
Once upon a time, this might not have been so important – but times are changing. Deposits are high, mortgages are harder to secure, and in cities like London, it’s actually cheaper overall to rent than buy according to recent reports. What’s more, with millennials increasingly changing jobs and location, people are beginning to enjoy the flexibility renting offers. In London alone, 700,000 people move every year – this wouldn’t be possible if they were shackled by a mortgage. In fact, PwC research suggested that 60 per cent of Londoners are expected to be renters by 2025.
So we need to get a move on and start putting the renter first, beginning with introducing more choice to the market. Developer Essential Living recently became the first to pave the path with the opening of Vantage Point – a luxury build-to-rent development made up of 118 apartments, based near Archway. The apartments come fully furnished, and residents also have access to a gym, games room, office space, lounge and communal dining area replacing the penthouse along with many other perks.
Check out some of the Essential Living apartments here:
In general, as build-to-rent developments are owned by large developers, they also typically only require small deposits, charge minimal admin fees, and can be trusted to be reliable, transparent, and service-oriented – something that a traditional Victorian conversion simply cannot match.
Of course, build-to-rent doesn’t just benefit renters - it’s also a smart choice for property developers. Unlike most conversions, which don’t efficiently use space, build-to-rent developments have high capacities. They can also be constructed quickly - Archway Tower was transformed into Vantage Point in just 2 years. This meant sizeable financial gains for developers.
The speedy construction and capacity of build-to-rent properties has already caught the government’s eye as they look to hold a housing crisis at bay. With a new Private Rental Sector taskforce in place, and millions being set aside in funding for investors and developers, the message is clear. It’s worth noting that when similar measures were put in place in the US, build-to-let units boomed to 450,000. Not that we have as much space in the UK, but it does suggest that build-to-rent properties might become a familiar feature of many city skylines in the coming years.
The market is primed and ready – UK renters are demanding more flexible, high-quality housing and the government is making preparations to meet them. Now we need the disruptors waiting in the wings to take to the stage and help put the UK property sector back on equal footing with the rest of the world. Ultimately, long-term renting needs to be seen as a desirable lifestyle choice, not a punishment.