The Rise of Build-to-Rent
The past several decades in the UK have seen a sharp rise in the number of households occupied by private renters. The statistics tell a compelling story. Strutt and Parker report that between 2001 and 2014 this number doubled to 5.4 million, or 20% of all tenures. It is anticipated that by 2025 more than half of those between ages 20 and 39 will be renting. The economic issue at large is quite clear: it is becoming more and more difficult to save the money required as a down payment on one’s own home. Knight Frank’s 2015/16 survey reveals that of those renters surveyed, 25% did not want or did not know if they would ever want to buy their own home. Of the remainder, less than half had started saving towards a deposit.
There is a growing conviction in the marketplace that the economic reasons driving up the number of renters are paralleled by a shift in culture. Jeremy Rifkin, an American economic and social theorist, refers to this time as ‘The Age of Access’, where the drive to own is being subsumed by the desire for a transitory right to use and enjoy. The younger generations are moving away from the need to own, with greater importance being placed on personal growth and development. This is the space that Build-to-Rent developers are beginning to fill in the UK. Companies are placing brand emphasis on what is being called the ‘co-living’ experience, where access to communal facilities can enhance personal well-being and increase meaningful interaction with neighbours.
Sadiq Khan has recently launched the London Family Fund to assist the city in improving social integration and discouraging isolation. The London Mayor understands the importance of creating a socially integrated community and how this is a major factor influencing where people choose to live. This is not a question of profit and loss, equity and return, but of human values and well-being. If purpose build-to-rent developments can lead to social inclusion and reflect lifestyle choices, the number of renters-by-choice is likely to keep growing. It is our responsibility as designers to meet this demand with high quality, sustainable, and affordable developments that create a sense of place and belonging. By providing people with homes that support their needs and desires, we can actively work towards happier and healthier cities.