Are Londoners starting to see rent as a long-term housing option?

The writing is on the wall, but we’re reluctant to admit it. Owning a home remains the dream of most Londoners, despite it becoming so vastly out of reach for so many.

With average London house prices being in the order of £800,000 and average salaries being around one 20th of that, the prospect of many first-time buyers getting on the housing ladder has become so remote that it is fast becoming fantasy, save for those who will inherit capital from family or who will be able to rely on the ‘bank of mum and dad’ to get them on the ladder.

So are we on the cusp of a major phase shift in the way we think about how we live? Are we getting close to the point where collectively Londoners decide to adopt a more European approach to living where renting is the norm? Many developers seem to think so.

The number of build-to-rent homes currently in construction is four times the number that have previously been built

The build-to-rent sector is booming. The number of build-to-rent homes currently in construction is four times the number that have previously been built, and they’re being built in larger and taller developments. We also think it’s likely that a lot of homes currently under construction for sale will be flipped to the rental sector on completion.

We’re also seeing greater emphasis being placed on the build-to-rent sector in planning policy. The majority of authorities still have a considerable way to go in fully grasping the build-to-rent sector, in particular in relating to how it works as an affordable housing product.

Renting is the future

But the shift in policy emphasis is another sign to us that we’re on a road that leads to London admitting to itself that renting is the future.

Londoners will find it hard to accept this, and policymakers will continue to insist that home ownership is attainable and that policy can make it a reality.

It could take a generation for the phase shift in Londoners’ thinking to become a reality, but with build-to-rent developers creating ever more attractive and liveable high-quality developments that foster a strong sense of place and community, Londoners are being seduced into rent as a long-term, if not lifelong, housing option.

For many Londoners, the prospect of saving hard to build up a colossal deposit that enables them to buy a home in the suburbs will not be as attractive as renting a modern inner-London home in a development targeted at like-minded people.

Grant Leggett is head of the London office at Boyer

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