Do you aspire to live in a box?
No, didn't think so.
How about renting a box?
I'm sure the scowl on your face says more than words alone ever could.
So why are developers like Qatari Diar so convinced that build-to-rent is 'needed'?
Is it because expensive consultants see it as a quick way to 'sell' them into the Private Rented Sector?
Or is it the lazy asset managers who need the 'one deal' route into private rented property?
Regardless of who and why, building dorm rooms for adults is just wrong.
You cannot expect anything other than voids and constant re-letting fees, which will massively erode yields.
So what's the alternative?
Single family homes.
The types of property where people aspire to raise a family. And won't move very often. You know, because they're happy.
What do single family homes look like? Houses, terraced houses and mansion blocks (no, there's no comparison to the boxes developers have been building recently. The clue is in the word mansion).
What do homes not look like? Everything being built by pension fund and insurance fund money today.
If you want proof that these developers are building property that isn't in demand, just look at how 'luxury flats' need to be sold offshore.
Brits don't see themselves putting down roots in tiny flats.
But, I hear you say, isn't there a housing supply problem in the UK?
To which I respond by asking you to open your eyes and ask yourself: Is their mass homelessness around you?
Truly, though, we are not building enough.
But we're also building the wrong types of property.
What we 'need' is more social housing.
What we 'want' are homes.
Neither are being built by big corporate developers. And certainly not in any kind of volume.
Want to see problems? Look to San Francisco. Genuine supply problems, real NIIMBYism and the most horrific homelessness in the developed world.
In the UK, we've got it easy. Which is why there's no pressure to 'fix things'. Necessity is the Mother of all invention, and Brits don't want to much. Except owning a home.
And that's why build-to-rent is really wrong.
Even if developers were building mansion blocks and replicating South Kensington all over London (4-5 storey terraced houses by creating streets), without the ability to own that home it's just not the right market fit for Brits.
So no, Susan Freeman, Build-a-box-to-rent is not the answer to anything worth questioning.
It's simple: if you don't live in a box to rent, don't advocate for other members of our society to be shoehorned into them.
Better yet, don't advocate for boxes to be built at all. We don't want them.
NOTE: I picked on Qatari Diar because they're big enough to change things. But they're not by any means the worst culprits. Their scheme in East London offers a genuinely diverse range of tenures. It's just that they're all boxes...
NOTE 2: Why I am picking on law firm Mishcon de Reya's Real Estate Partner, is because her tweeted responses to anything housing are that Build to rent is the answer:
NOTE 3: I've purposefully left out numbers and stats above. This is a topic about aspiration and need, and so I gave it room for counter views and commentary.