The new-look Elephant and Castle has been chosen as the location for Britain’s first “build-to-rent” housing scheme — a 44-storey skyscraper designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.
The biggest rental housing complex since the iconic Dolphin Square scheme opened in Pimlico in the Thirties, the skyscraper has been made possible by a government-backed initiative aimed at plugging the gap between costly home ownership and unsatisfactory private sector renting.
It allows “institutional” finance from pension and hedge funds to be used to back bespoke rental homes with longer tenancies than usual and a host of lifestyle extras - 24-hour concierge, gym membership, car club - that city renters want.
Private renting currently accounts for just over a quarter (27 per cent) of all households in London, and the figure is forecast to reach 40 per cent within 10 years. In European cities such as Berlin and Paris, up to 60 per cent of households rent privately.
The Elephant & Castle tower will rise on land owned by the Greater London Authority. Essential Living, the developer, has secured funding from US private equity firm M3 Capital. The tower will have 462 apartments, while a new theatre and cafe for Southwark Playhouse will be built alongside affordable housing provided by Peabody. Construction will start in early 2014.
The government has set aside £1 billion to support developers build private rented sector homes. Mayor Boris Johnson says he is committed to bringing forward more public sector land for such projects. The hope is that corporate rental companies will become trusted landlords, set higher standards and offer fair-priced accommodation. Many more homes are in the pipeline.
Essential Living plans to build 5,000 rental homes during the next decade. Half the 2,818 homes at East Village (formerly, the Athletes’ Village) in Stratford will be for private rent, owned and managed by a company called Get Living London.
Another landlord entrant is Fizzy Living, a subsidiary of Thames Valley housing association, which aims to build a portfolio of 1,000 flats in easily-accessible commuter locations for the “Facebook generation”.