I was very interested to read about a number of good sized co-living developments being planned for Dublin and, particularly interstingly, Dun Laoghaire.
The company involved, Bartra, quote a clear definition of their young, target customer. From a business point of view that seems very smart, and probably works best for these larger developments. Personally, I believe co-living has many markets, and a lot to offer many different types of people. It may even be that coliving is at it’s best when embracing diversity within shared environments.
“Critics round on No 10 over ‘ridiculous’ rules for 14-day quarantine”
I have yet to see any mention of the effect a quarantine regime will have on businesses outside the “travel and tourism” sectors.
While it is obvious that those sectors will suffer, there are many other businesses, such as Zetland, our student accommodation in Huddersfield, which will suffer from additional barriers on a market already under severe pressure.
The central problem is the lack of clarity around the effectiveness of the quarantine strategy. It has already become apparent that people under quarantine restrictions will be allowed to use public transport to get to their ultimate destination, and then be allowed to go out to shop and fulfil legal obligations. So how effective will it be?
My personal view is influenced by our position of course. I try to be as impartial as possible but I can’t get past the argument that if the general public are obeying goslings and exercising good social distancing, and in particular if those inbound passengers were compelled to use the ‘test and trace’ app, then they actually represent very little additional risk.
“We can’t yet say what’s on offer in September, UK universities tell freshers”
If you UK universities still can’t say what they’re going to do for 2020/21, it’s unreasonable to expect our potential tenants to make solid commitments.
For the moment, while we continue to receive enquiries, we are finding students cannot be certain about the dates they’ll need accommodation, and are reluctant to commit.
Fair enough. These are very difficult times for most, of course, but particularly sectors at all connected with education, and in particular, tertiary education. We feel the best thing we can do is be accommodating and patient.
One thing’s for sure, almost everyone is having it tough but, generally, we are all ‘pulling together’ to navigate these difficult times. So is it reasonable for students to be demanding rent reductions and cancellation of contracts? I read this article last week and thought it was worth a short comment.
Landlords are often vilified in the media but I know personally of many very good landlords who, despite zero grants or compensation from government schemes, are making arrangements with tenants who have lost work or been furloughed. Commercial landlords of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities are undoubtedly in for a very tough ride for an extended period. However, in the short term at least, they are able to claim grants linked to Business Rates.
The case for students in HMOs is slightly different. Whereas commercial landlords pay business rates, student accommodation is residential and is liable for council tax. There is no government support at all for providers except the CBILS loan scheme. CBILS is a loan, to be repaid, and subject to arbitrary interest rates after 12 months. Besides, only 1% of applications have been granted to date!
But many students have loans too. Which also must be repaid. Some have also had to work to support themselves and supplement those loans; that work has just gone and they can’t claim UC because they’re full time students. So I can see their point.
However, landlords are not the enemy here. Some of our residents have chosen to go home, some have stayed. We have helped some who’ve left by providing free boxes and tape, and offering free storage, but some have literally just bolted, leaving most of their belongings in their rooms.
Some who have left have paid periods in advance, some have payments due and are asking about the possibility of cancelling their contracts.
We are looking after those who have stayed, keeping in regular contact with each and every one. Cleaning and hygiene management continues, with the full support of the residents. We have installed neat hand sanitisers in the entrances of all flats, so residents, and any required visitors (i.e. for maintenance), can sanitise easily before touching handrails, door handles, etc when coming in from outside. This has been appreciated and helps create goodwill.
In order to keep providing services and protection to our remaining residents we need to keep paying our bills and for the people who manage everything. Some bills may reduce slightly but many won’t – high speed broadband doesn’t get cheaper when only one person is using it. Power and heating is used by fewer people but used much longer, all day and much of the night in fact.
So it is clear this is not a one dimensional situation to be solved with simplistic answers. On all sides, landlords, tenants, councils and regulatory bodies, there needs to be flexibility to find solutions for every case and this won’t be achieved by any single party ignoring the position of another.
As long as all parties act with integrity in cooperative spirit, we can all get through these exceptional, tough times.
I read this comprehensive and balanced article a while ago but revisited it today. I thought it would provide a really good introduction for anyone who isn’t really sure what ‘co-living’ is and why it could be worth their investment.
The article even clearly defines the difference between ‘co-living’ and ‘co-housing’ together with both positive and negative opinion from current and former residents of both types of development.
The balance is good, exploring the pros and cons, and discussing whether co-living is really just a way for developers to squeeze the living space and cram as many people as possible into their developments.
My one big take home from it though is the social aspect. I firmly believe the current drive for larger developments, ostensibly to achieve required economies of scale, actually destroys the social cohesion that is the principle desire of a large proportion of the target residents.
I believe these large scale schemes actually reduce the social cohesion and provide greater opportunity for conflict. After all, we know the optimum size for an HMO is 6 people and that co-living works best from a social perspective with 6-12 people sharing resources.
My personal vision for getting those scale economies is to have a large number of smaller units, sharing resources and facilities across sites. Each ‘unit’ works on its own but gains by sharing across a network of local and national resources.
Read this article with that goal in mind and if the idea of developing co-living units interlinked across sites has any resonance, get in touch!
I received the following “Top 20 areas of North Yorkshire’s rental market revealed” through LinkedIn today and I was keen to see the report.
It’s only short and when I’d finished I wasn’t sure what I’d learnt, if anything. Then a closer look revealed … nothing!
After the introductory fluff, the first pertinent table allegedly shows the comparative ‘size’ of the rental markets in towns and cities. It shows Middlesbrough (spelling it incorrectly with an extra ‘o’ by the way) as by far the largest ‘market’, quoting it as 35% of the total North Yorkshire market, with Richmond at 25%, York at 17% and Harrogate at 7.2%. Wow! Interesting.
Hang on! Richmond at 25%?! Richmond has a population of 8,500? Even the whole of Richmondshire is only 53,000 (North Yorkshire has a population of about 1.3m) how can it be 25% of the market?
I look again … the statistics are an “analysis of rental prices (in advertised rents) for homes to let”. Which means these are rental asking prices – for rentals that have not yet let. So really it does not show the size of the rental market at all, it more accurately describes what is NOT renting! Therefore on this data scrape you might be better assuming that Middlesbrough is critically over-supplied and be looking at the lower percentages where there isn’t such a high surplus on the market. No?
No. This data has absolutely no meaning at all – the size of the location is not considered – a low percentage location might still be over-supplied using this data. I can’t actually work out what this data is telling me. Certainly not quickly, which is what data is supposed to do.
What about the next table ‘Top5 rental markets … on rent’?
In my humble opinion, similarly useless. So Middlesbrough, although substantially highest in the ‘market size’ rank of the first table, is 5th with a rental figure less than a quarter of Richmond. I can sort of extrapolate from the two sets of figures that Middlesbrough has a lot more properties available at much lower rents than Richmond. But now I’m trying to guess what’s going on with Richmond, commanding such high rents – perhaps there are a significant number of very large, rural houses which are not letting and skewing the data.
What data? It’s a mess. Does any of this inform investment decisions or help me define the best rental markets in the region? Emphatically not. Useless. A waste of my time reading and trying to understand this ‘report’ and of the agent’s time in originally producing it. I suppose at least I got a blog post out of it – but not the positive kind of post the originator of the ‘report’ was looking for.
In a potentially landmark decision, the Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building was awarded to the Goldsmith Street social housing development in Norwich.
Not only is it the first time the award has been given to social housing, it marks a significant change in focus for the jury. Last year’s award went to the £1.3bn Bloomberg headquarters for being the most sustainable office building ever conceived – despite importing 600 tonnes of Bronze from Japan and granite from India.
The hope has to be that this award will help shape the direction of housing provision to come. The design is led strongly by social efficacy as well as environmental efficiency. Houses have doorways facing each other, encouraging social interaction, there are communal as well as private play areas and social spaces, and at the front, the design of the street has cars very much secondary to prioritising the movement and interaction of people.
When I’ve seen the new residents interviewed on the news, the response has been overwhelmingly very positive – many people just couldn’t see themselves ever moving out. Now that is an enviable level of satisfaction. Let’s have lots more.
Now – in a personal postscript to this – I have long been espousing the value of great social design in co-living spaces but actually, we have a potential project which we’re looking to bring to fruition next year, in which we had already identified the great value in creating a ‘street’ feeling for a group of holiday cottages and serviced accommodation apartments. Although the ‘street’ will always remain a right of way, the majority of the time vehicles will not be allowed anywhere. We want to encourage the feeling of ‘ownership’ of that area, by the people who are staying there, enabling parents to comfortably allow their children to play with each other outside.
This project is incredibly ambitious and we hope to be able to let you begin to see into it very soon. Fingers crossed!
It appears WeWork has expanded too fast, too far and wide, and too thinly. Whereas the product models, of both WeWork and WeLive, are most definitely finding favour with consumers, the financing model is becoming ‘problematic’.
WeWork has pulled their much vaunted flotation amid signs their expansion has been overly aggressive. With the back-loaded nature of the agreements they have signed, there are rumours WeWork will run out of cash in 2020 unless one of their major backers provides more working capital. Of course, additional funds cannot be ruled out, and are probably likely, but when a flotation at around $47bn is pulled, with the share price receding so the company valuation is now closer to $10bn, some ‘restructuring’ looks inevitable.
WeWork is undoubtedly the most significant driver in this market but perhaps their short term problems open a window of opportunity for others to follow an adapted model. Their co-working product works well. Their co-living product is less well tested. Opportunities abound for agile entrants to hone the commercial model, using the best of the proven product strategies with a more secure financing structure. It feels like there is a significant opportunity, right now, to catch up and nip at their heels.
A few days ago I stumbled on this lovely article about an imaginative business located in the North Yorkshire, which encourages visitors to the Yorkshire Dales to explore the wonderful countryside in ‘green’, electric campervans.
The article goes on to describe a number of the beautiful locations, places to visit and ‘things to do’. It is a welcome expounding of the virtues of the Yorkshire countryside and the positive benefit to well-being.
Of course, one can never be sure whether a business like this has real legs but the enthusiasm, imagination and (to use a great Northern term) sheer gumption is genuinely admirable – we can only wish them the best of luck in this ambitious endeavour.
During our journey through life we experience many boxes; the box we live in, the box we learn in, the box we travel in. And then there’s the box we think in.
Society generally dictates we accept the way things are – it has always been that way, therefore it willalways be that way. But inside, we know in our gut, there is a better way.
This article is extraordinary. It brings together so many aspects of what I believe about Property and the way we use it as different societies. It must be true that there is no set way for everyone to live but there are many different ways.
The trick for an investor in property is to spot the opportunities from lifestyle changes. The closer you watch society, watch the changing, developing needs and developing importance of those needs, then there is your developing niche.
And niche can often become mainstream. That is the goal. Make the product so goodfor society, so apt to the times it becomes so desirable that everyone in your target market aspires to it. Then expand the options to expand the market reach.
Except for it getting me thinking, none of the above says anything much about the article to which I linked! I suppose is right and proper … I’ll just let the professional journalist express some of my shared vision for the co-living environments of the near future.