The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the industry
The Industry Impact
The real estate industry has felt the ramifications of COVID-19, as construction was halted and markets across the sector thrown into uncertainty.
The build-to-rent (BTR) model relies upon the benefit to residents of shared spaces, communal facilities and a sense of ‘togetherness’ between households, meaning the implementation of social distancing measures has tangibly impacted the sector.
Mainstay was one of the first firms to introduce a management style, which had all the hallmarks of modern BTR, with its Integrated Property Management (IPM) portfolio.
The IPM properties benefit from a bespoke, community-focused service which places residents at the heart and optimises their shared spaces and free time.
Clare Johnson, a project manager at Mainstay, works closely with BTR and Private Rented Sector (PRS) developers and investors to advise on how their design and build processes can be engineered to best suit the needs of modern residents. Since the onset of the pandemic, Clare has seen considerations around these needs shift dramatically – something which, she believes, could be permanent.
She explains: “We’re finding that our clients are having to rethink shared spaces to create a more adaptable and flexible environment as social distancing has placed a question mark over ‘traditional’ BTR amenities such as entertainment spaces and indoor sports facilities.
“What we foresee is an increase in developers and community management teams bringing amenities into people’s homes through tech, rather than relying on these communal areas as they have done in the past. This could mean that resident apps, which are more commonplace nowadays, are engineered to be more robust as things like virtual fitness classes are accessed on there and are available for all residents to ‘dial in’ to via video link at an agreed time.”
“We’re now considering with our clients how we plan if something like COVID-19 were to ever happen again so that we can be future-proofed. For people living in smaller spaces such as apartments, there’s a chance that this period could have made them feel quite ‘hemmed in’, which of course is something we want to avoid looking ahead.
The limited private outdoor space available to many residents of apartment schemes has generated much conversation throughout the lockdown period, with the phrase ‘garden privilege’ even gaining traction on social media. Clare anticipates that greater focus will be brought to this in future as a result of the pandemic.
“BTR developments are overwhelmingly situated in the central core of cities and towns, with their proximity to local amenities considered an attractive feature. However, I think we could see more garden village and courtyard-style construction, coupled with more ‘democratisation’ of views. Currently, in a block of flats, you may have some apartments with balconies, some with doors that open onto a ground-floor green space or others that get perhaps less sunlight and have less attractive outlooks.
“The increase in home working is naturally driving people to look for properties with extra room or a facility for a home office space. I think we could also see an increase in the introduction of co-working areas in most buildings, with more flexible and adaptable design led features to enable hot desking which is already a key feature within BtR. This may provide a more cost-effective solution to the developer than increasing apartment space to create private working environments.