John Lewis to build 10,000 rental properties by 2031

High-street giant John Lewis is set to join the burgeoning “build to rent” property sector, by planning to build 10,000 homes over the next decade in an attempt to recoup recent losses. In becoming a residential landlord John Lewis said it will strive to offer tenants a greater degree of security and more visibility of rent increases.

The employee-owned retailer John Lewis, has identified over 7,000 opportunities for the construction of rental homes across its property portfolio. It is thought that in addition to taking on new sites for development, the new homes will also be built in department store car parks, above Waitrose supermarkets or next to distribution centres, and will range from studio flats to four-bedroom houses.

The news comes following recent financial difficulties which saw the closure of 16 of 51 John Lewis stores, including department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York, due to the effects of Covid-19 lockdown rules and growing online retail competition. The first John Lewis homes are planned for southeast England, although opportunities are thought to be country-wide due to the extent of the current housing crisis.

House prices have been rising at their fastest rate in 17 years predominantly due to the Government’s recent stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday which ended on June 30th. It has been reported that the rush to meet the SDLT holiday deadline has added £17,265 to the average house price in England, pushing many properties out of reach of first-time buyers.

In addition to it’s pledge to offer fair rents and long term security to tenants, John Lewis is also thought to be offering it’s 80,000 staff discounted rents. Chris Harris, the partnership’s property director, said of the scheme:

“Typically a developer might try and maximise returns and then move onto the next one … we are not trying to do that. We are aiming to charge a fair rent and to stay for the long haul.”

Residents of a John Lewis home will have the option of renting it furnished with the department store’s products, or using their own. Housing developments will come with a concierge service and may feature a Waitrose convenience store near the entrance.

Although still undecided, the intention is that prospective residents will be able to identify the landlord by a sign fitted over the door, similar to the chain’s scheme in Leckford, Hampshire, where John Lewis also owns several properties that are marked with a green door.

The retailer is preparing to lodge a handful of planning applications early next year.

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