Operating assets are the buzz phrase in real estate alternatives, yet investors have become increasingly comfortable with the reputational risk that comes with owning assets that are intrinsically linked with people’s lives.
Seven years ago, concern about operating challenges steered conversations with investors. Since then, perceptions have shifted to the extent that ‘people risk’ rarely attracts objections.
That private rented housing is now regarded in the same vein as mainstream asset classes is testament to the efforts by property managers to manage that risk.
Like the legs of a gliding swan paddling furiously beneath the surface, managers successfully navigate myriad unspoken issues – from broken relationships to a deterioration in people’s health, for example.
The mark of quality is measured by how managers overcome obstacles. We have learned several lessons along the way. Above all is the importance of considering the environment in and around schemes from the get-go. It is not enough to deliver a high-spec building; in building homes, property providers must consider people’s wellbeing. The industry must seek to enrich the experience of residents through tailored events and shared spaces, while also engaging with the wider community.
From sponsoring local charities chosen by customers to working with neighbourhood watch schemes and commissioning local graffiti artists, encouraging inclusivity from within communities enables potential problems to be channelled into opportunities.
This requires collaboration with local councils to incorporate their vision of regeneration, placemaking, employment, charity and making buildings accessible to local people.
Taking a proactive approach to challenges brings energy into our buildings. By drawing people in to an inspiring, secure environment in which people watch people, the industry can create thriving places that encourage planners and politicians to embrace the good that institutions can bring to investment.
The value of wellbeing
Conversations with investors today reflect the value of wellbeing and the environment. As the need for bigger, more complex sites grows, in line with the rising need for affordable housing, the importance of community will become a greater priority still.
Over the next decade, we expect to see more estate management, with an onus on property providers to reach out to local businesses, councils and other authorities before schemes are launched.
Greater efficiency and affordability will define build-to-rent housing of the future, especially with the planned end of the government’s Help to Buy scheme in 2023, which will drive increased demand for tenures such as PRS and shared-ownership housing.
As smart energy meters and sustainable energy provision become more sophisticated, residents will benefit from lower costs. Improved transparency will also promote the evolution of the PRS by encouraging the sale of completed buildings, in addition to simply forward-funding developments.
Alex Greaves is head of residential investment at M&G Real Estate