Can build to rent help solve the UK’s loneliness problem?

Loneliness in the UK

Our current way of life is leading to increasing issues of loneliness affecting not only older generations but younger too. We believe residential developments designed and built around a rental model can do much to overcome that loneliness.

Tracey Crouch has been appointed as the UK’s first minister for loneliness. The move is the result of work undertaken by the Commission on Loneliness, set up by late MP Jo Cox to raise awareness of the hidden crisis. The UK is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, which found that 200,000 older people had not had a conversation with a  relative in more than a month. The number of single households is already on the rise and due to increase by a quarter (an additional 1.7 million households) by 2039, according to government projections.

How can build to rent help?

Housing plays a key role in our society in terms of building communities, particularly in city environments. Well designed properties can help build feelings of connectivity and community that bring about multiple benefits for residents’ mental health. With  build to rent accommodation taking off in the UK, we have a unique opportunity to use housing to reduce loneliness and bring about positive change. Loneliness is often associated with older people who live alone, but they are not the only group affected. Young people in urban areas often suffer with feelings of loneliness, as do downsizing parents whose children have flown the nest. Students are greatly affected by loneliness as they spend time isolated when studying for long hours. Our changing approach to relationships has also resulted in many people feeling lonely. The average age at which people married in 1971 was 22.6 for a woman and 24.6 for a man; by 2017, it had changed to 30.8 and 32.7 respectively.

The range of ages residing in a build to rent accommodation provides the opportunity to address some of these issues. Downsizers who rent are a growing group, with many enjoying the experience of urban living and the continued connection with younger generations that it offers. With individuals, couples and families all living together in one development, social opportunities are ever present.

The design of the development supports this too, with shared communal facilities such as club lounges, gyms, outdoor space and even the entrance lobby all offering developers the chance to promote social interaction between residents, thus creating a friendly and social atmosphere in the development. The staff  who work alongside build to rent developments also play a big role in promoting community spirit and building social interaction. A friendly, helpful on-site team, made up of people who genuinely care about residents’ welfare, can make a big difference to the lives of those who reside there. So too can the events that the team organise. Social barbecues, Christmas parties and the screening of major sporting events give residents the chance to connect with like-minded individuals, or simply new people whom they might not otherwise encounter. Tackling loneliness is about bringing people together, not about taking an isolated approach.