The tech-savvy Londoners finding innovative ways to solve the capital's housing crisis

Tech-savvy young Londoners who know the challenges of city living are finding ways to solve the problems, with new app-controlled eco-homes, low-cost renting options and the conversion of unusual commercial spaces into affordable new flats.

Krishan Pattni and Robert Luck
Founders of Latis Homes ( Krishan Pattni and Robert Luck, both 32, specialise in affordable eco-homes that come with a techie twist. The pair sold half of their first scheme of 14 green affordable homes in Hayes, west London, in only three hours. 

They now have £100 million funding to drive completion of another 415 eco-homes across London, Kent and Hertfordshire over the next two years. Work is about to get under way at the first of those schemes in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden. Owners of the spacious central London flats being created will be able to control their homes remotely via a smartphone app. 

“We use the latest technology to provide app-controlled homes,” says  Pattni. “The app has to be simple, or people wouldn’t use it. “It allows them to turn lights, heating and hot water off and on from their phone or from a tablet anywhere in the world. 


“We encourage affordable living. All of our taps and showers offer a choice for full or half power. Owners can choose which to go for and monitor their energy use via the app, and see a flow chart of how much water, gas and electricity they have used.” 

Luck adds: “These are not one-off, high-end eco-homes for rich clients, but tech-enabled designer homes suitable for first-time buyers. We think that we will disrupt the market. This is a first.” 

Prices at the Covent Garden scheme will be released later this year but at Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, where phase one is under construction, prices start at £249,000 for one-bedroom flats and £325,000 for two bedrooms.

Reza Merchant  
There are not many 25-year-olds with the courage to fund their business with a £1.8 million bridging loan against their family home. Reza Merchant, founder of The Collective (, a London-based, shared-living concept offering affordable renting options for people on average salaries, did just that. 
Reza Merchant founded The Collective, a London-based shared-living concept with affordable accommodation

The loan covered the refurbishment bill required for Merchant to develop his first multi-unit property — an 11,500sq ft derelict mansion block in Camden, NW1, the first of three Collective buildings in London.

The Collective concept is to buy and refurbish run-down buildings and supply the rental market with high-spec spaces for short-term rents. Some of the studio flats are less than 120sq ft, which is the size of a standard bedroom, with entire living quarters squeezed in. 

Clever design is used, including floating beds and storage options, to provide accommodation for young professionals on modest salaries of £20,000 to £40,000: “It’s an earning bracket the housing market does not cater for well,” says Merchant.

Rents at The Collective start at £500 a month all in and go up to around £800 to £1,000 for bigger rooms. The rent figure also includes a weekly linen change and room cleaning. In the 323-unit scheme under construction in Willesden Junction, due to complete in September, the rent will also cover access to communal facilities including a gym, spa, games room, cinema, disco laundrette, themed private dining rooms and a secret garden.

“Our extra services are there to make living easier and save time,” adds Merchant. “There are hundreds of young people out there who get badly treated by private landlords.”

Ed Marsh and Tom Mees
Former retail surveyors Ed Marsh and Tom Mees, both 33, convert unusual commercial  spaces into affordable new homes for Londoners. 

The duo behind FRT Developments ( recently renovated a historic bakery in Wandsworth and have just started work on a five-house development in the south London fringe area of Carshalton.

With central London property prices soaring, they want to concentrate on offering better value on the fringes of the city.

Ed Marsh and Tom Mees, the duo behind FRT Developments

“We have already seen very high demand for our Grove Park Villas development. It’s a 25-minute commute from Carshalton into Victoria but for the same money as a  one-bedroom apartment in Clapham, £600,000, you get a highly energy efficient new-build with four bedrooms, a private garden and parking,” says Marsh.

You do have to factor in the cost of train fares, of course.

These young property disruptors really do get on their bikes to search out the bargains around the fringes of the capital.

“‘We cycled out and around London at weekends looking for new opportunities, and we roll every penny we own into each new scheme.” 

FRT’s four-bedroom, three-storey townhouses in Carshalton, all five with gardens, will be priced in the region of £575,000. 
The one-bedroom apartment at The Old Bakery in Wandsworth is on the market for £315,000.

Charlie Vaughan-Lee

Charlie Vaughan-Lee is the 33-year old founder and chief executive of Student Cribs ( He began catering for out-of-town university students looking to share in their second to fourth years. 

His group offers high-end accommodation with flat-screen TV’s, new mod cons and even cream carpets in different design styles.

Now he plans to launch Professional Cribs in London, buying outdated homes along the Crossrail route in Acton, Ealing and West Ealing and modernising them, turning them into smart rental homes for graduates and young professionals. 

Charlie Vaughan-Lee, founder of Student Cribs

It is a form of land bank for Vaughan-Lee. He is targeting family houses and after seven years will sell them, capitalising on the uplift in the property from the Crossrail effect on routes running from Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway and West Ealing. 

“Buyers will get to Liverpool Street in 20 minutes rather than 50. And in 2018, commuting time to Canary Wharf, the City and Heathrow will be slashed by up to 70 per cent. The cost of prime central London locations will continue to push well-heeled families further out. We can buy a three- or four-bedroom family house now for £500,000 to £700,000. These are the smart places to buy right now.”

Emily Wright is features and global editor of Estates Gazettes

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