24 Jul 2023

It’s time to think beyond ownership - letter in Property Week

A recent report by the Centre for Cities found the UK housing market was missing 4.3 million homes. Against this supply backdrop, buying a place to live is now beyond the reach of many people.

Meanwhile, a dearth of rental properties has seen average asking rents outside London hit a record £1,190 per month, and more than £2,500 in the capital.

With so many struggling to buy or rent, it’s clear housebuilding activity alone is not the answer. We need a more diverse housing offer to deliver suitable options for all needs, budgets and life stages in our cities. And while the country clearly needs more social and affordable housing, the provision of better, more secure private rental homes is also vital.

While home ownership is a one-dimensional solution to broader housing needs, build-to-rent (BTR) is a powerful, underutilised tool that can and should be incorporated as a key element of the UK’s regeneration and development programme.

Over the past decade we’ve seen an exponential rise in BTR housing in the UK and there is still plenty of appetite for more from both occupiers and investors. To unlock BTR’s potential, a co-operative and sustainable combination of policy, development and operational management is needed.

We are all familiar with people’s horror stories of experiences with cowboy private landlords and poor property managers. Well-designed, effectively managed BTR schemes offer a welcome alternative to this for the millions of people that are renting out of convenience, preference or necessity.

But more BTR isn’t the only solution to the housing crisis. We recently launched a new venture, HubCap, which focuses on creating innovative, low-carbon developments that make use of central city office buildings, converting them into housing that accommodates emerging models like co-living. HubCap has two pilot schemes in London and Edinburgh – two cities where space is limited and the housing crisis is acute. Introducing alternative models can relieve the pressure.

People have different housing needs. These will continue to evolve as our cities and societies do. Meanwhile, innovation will be fundamental in maintaining our city centres as successful places.

It will be the key to finding solutions that will see people across the UK well housed in thriving communities where they want to live.

Letter from Robert Sloss, chief executive and co-founder, HUB in Property Week