The private rented sector (PRS) provides half a million homes to English families - but when a private landlord decides to cash out of the property market this can be incredibly stressful, with families having to move home and possibly even change schools.
It was with one eye on this that we wanted to do something different for our Creekside Wharf scheme in Greenwich. We wanted to combine
some of the best elements of America’s multi-family sector with things that would also appeal to south London families.
While many notable firms, such as Fizzy Living, Be:here, HUB and Grainger are building for long-term rent, Essential Living is often tarred with a brush reserved for speculators who sell everything off-plan to invisible investors.
It’s vital people start to understand that this is not what we do and not all housing is created the same.
Being both a developer and a landlord puts us in a very different position. We don’t just have a social duty to care - we have a commercial imperative to take a long-term view.
Over the two-and-a-half years we’ve existed, we’ve learnt that actions speak louder than words.
Creekside Wharf was therefore an opportunity to demonstrate how we see housing contributing to a local community and how building specifically for rent can provide a product that positively disrupts an out-dated market that favours the simplicity of easy-to-fill one-bed flats.
One of the two blocks will be dedicated to families, with 60 oversized two- and three-bedroom apartments offering additional storage, extra acoustic insulation and a host of amenities for play, fitness and socialising.
Moving children’s bedrooms away from living spaces and having child-friendly balconies with extra height on balustrades are subtle but important touches.
The reason for including amenities, such as an on-site nursery, rooftop gardens or a bike storage-and-repair bay is that these reflect the way people choose to live in cities.
We’re helping to offer a lifestyle, and by creating the space families want, we can ensure a more balanced scheme and more balanced community for everyone. For us, having a family can be preferable to a group of individuals in the same apartment. It costs more to house families as they inevitably require more facilities, but they typically stay longer.
Together with our architects, Assael, we believe the compelling scheme we’ve created strikes a neat balance between modern housing and a genuine social benefit in that family housing is woefully lacking across the capital.
Our plan is also to prioritise the locals and offer tenancies of up to three or even five years. It’s in our interest to keep people for the long term, and we’ll incentivise them financially to stay.
Keeping our customers for longer is good for the borough too, creating the strong, vibrant communities that politicians work hard to achieve.
We shouldn’t need to stargaze to generate a genuine sense of social cohesion in modern housing schemes.
Martin Bellinger is chief operating officer at Essential Living