When many people think of the private rented sector (PRS) and build to rent (BTR), it’s not uncommon to primarily think of slick high-rise, city-centre apartment blocks targeted at millennials.
The overwhelming majority of tenants in Manchester’s PRS market are young professionals looking to benefit from all the social and cultural opportunities that come with city-centre living. I recently attended a PRS focused event where JLL revealed that 93% of tenants at its Greengate development in Manchester were aged 18 – 35 with similar statistics for other schemes across the city. However, it raised important questions around whether Manchester is providing enough options for different demographics.
There’s no doubt that there is a growing demand for PRS homes, whether that be apartments or more traditional family houses, but what interests me, is how the sector is already starting to evolve and what we can expect to see from this housing tenure in 20 – 30 years’ time. The PRS market is beginning to diversify as developers and investors switch on to the very real opportunities for creating a product that better suits the needs of over 55s. It’s time we start to address the gap in the market.
As set out in the influential HAPPI reports, the UK has a rapidly ageing population which is a huge opportunity in itself, within which there is also a growing demand for rental homes. Older tenants are looking for longer-length, secure tenancies which should be an attractive proposition for investors. One of the current challenges for PRS is the high level of ‘churn’, with people taking shorter term leases, posing a void risk for investors. What will their occupancy levels be like in a few years if people on shorter leases are frequently moving and how will the constant shift in tenants effect the community feel within a development? If we could provide apartments that cater to people’s changing needs as they grow older, so as to provide flexibility and longevity, this could be a win-win for residents and investors alike.
So, what can we do to try and make PRS a more attractive option for older people? Pozzoni is passionate about mixed communities and how we can create truly intergenerational developments. I think we as designers, along with developers and planners, have a responsibility at the early planning stages to paint a compelling picture for local authorities to better understand what our communities of the future should look like, so that there’s more cohesion and opportunities for all age groups to shape our towns and cities.
Although we need shorter term solutions to address the current need for more housing, if you look ahead, we currently have a generation that, whether by choice or circumstance, is renting for longer. Renting is becoming the new ‘normal’. So, where will the millennial renters go in 20-30 years’ time? Some may purchase properties of their own, while others will continue in rented accommodation. We’ve become quite savvy around the desires of a millennial renter and what facilities and services they’re looking for in BTR schemes, but we need get to know other demographics better too. What do families want? What do older people want? There will be commonalities between them all, but it would be wrong to assume that everyone of retirement age wants peace and quiet in a suburban or rural setting. Plenty of older people are remaining healthier and economically active for longer and want to tap into the benefits of city-centre living, we just need to create a vision and the developments that make it a reality.
At Pozzoni we’ve been designing residential accommodation for older people for many years and are increasingly doing so in urban, town and city locations. Examples include ‘Village 135’ in Wythenshawe, Manchester, as featured in Housing LIN case study no149, which provides mixed tenure apartments for older people supported by a large active communal ‘hub’, as well as a large development adjacent to Chester’s railway station fronting the canal and a large project at Wirral Waters. This experience has led us to be actively involved in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Ageing Hub (opens new window) which we’re delighted to be part of. The Housing and Planning task group is addressing a wide range of considerations across the built environment in support of Manchester’s recognition by the World Health Organisation as the UK’s first Age Friendly City Region and we will be looking at different tenure choices too, including PRS.