KISS is an acronym for ‘keep it simple, stupid’
The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple, rather than made complicated. This piece of US Navy shorthand has since gained widespread acceptance in design and engineering circles.
Unfortunately, the KISS principle cannot be applied to our industry’s approach to the private rented sector (PRS).
The US model suggests PRS works best as a complete package with additional amenities, expensive extras and fancy facilities. While concierges, gyms and free wireless broadband might suit one small segment of the market, I believe most tenants simply want a decent, well-maintained apartment to rent at the market rate without all the bells and whistles.
Most housing-related talk these days invariably focuses on London and the South East. This bias has skewed the evolution of PRS in this country in favour of an unnecessarily complicated proposition. This is unfortunate and means that opportunities are being missed. Regional cities across the UK with a high density of young professionals are all excellent locations for affordable PRS. Demand is definitely out there. So too is the number of suitable city-centre sites.
Through offering favourable terms to builders and developers, the development can become essentially de-risked and construction can move forward. In our experience, this approach works best with new builds, but can also be applied to large-scale conversions and refurbs.
Apartments must be finished to a high standard, but the merits of going beyond that - such as the obsession with equally sized bedrooms and well-appointed communal space - is, frankly, debatable.
A rigid adherence to spatial orthodoxy makes life unnecessarily difficult. We need the polar opposite of an inflexible ‘one-size-fits-all’ model if we are going to succeed in delivering volume for good value.
Once completed, the management of apartment blocks can easily be outsourced to reputable local firms that know and understand the area. Corporate landlords need not be on hand every day of the week when agents on the ground - with good oversight - are more than up to the task.
Corporate landlords have the potential to transform renting in this country. With our economies of scale and professional approach, the industry can both help meet demand and improve the quality of housing stock available for rent (and, as a consequence, the experience for tenants). There is a social and political imperative at stake here, to say nothing of the commercial opportunities on offer.
There is no need to elevate PRS to lofty, complicated heights. The solution is simple. Removing the bells and whistles imported from the US will allow the sector to focus on bringing more stock to the market. At Delph, we are determined not to be sidetracked into competing with a model that is overcomplicated and too expensive to be viable. Let’s keep it simple and move forward.
Howard Crocker is managing director at Delph Property Group