Reimagining Rent: Report Unveils Innovation in and Future of the Private Rented Sector

Date: 22 September 2020

  • The Young Foundation launches new report into social innovation in the UK private rented sector
  • Unveils findings following three-year accelerator programme working with 19 mission-driven ventures
  • Calls for new approaches to support housing innovation, including patient, impact-led capital, a network of housing accelerators and stronger impact measurement
  • As the private rental evictions ban ends, key recommendations for change are presented to policymakers and influencers

Tuesday 22nd September 2020: The Young Foundation has today unveiled the findings from its Reimagining Rent accelerator; a programme that seeks to drive improvements in the private rented sector (PRS) through supporting innovation. 

Over the past three years, Reimagining Rent, supported by Nationwide Foundation, has worked with a wide range of mission-driven entrepreneurs all seeking to improve outcomes for those who rent, discovering the impact they make and the challenges they face. Through an intensive course of workshops, consultancy and expert mentoring, the project has supported 19 ventures to develop their business models, access new customers and raise over £1 million in investment to reach people renting privately at a greater scale. These ventures each focus on one of five major challenges identified: promoting tenancy sustainability, supporting transitions to independence, using technology to improve the market, growing affordable and appropriate housing stock, and improving access to existing stock.

With the PRS in Britain expanding rapidly in recent years, an increasingly diverse demographic of people have turned to renting, with issues around affordability, housing quality and evictions leading to harm for many, particularly among vulnerable groups. The fractures in this complex system have had devastating impacts for many, leading to a stark increase in homelessness – with the termination of PRS contracts as the most common cause of homelessness. COVID-19 has exacerbated all of these issues. Long periods of isolation have increased mental health issues and affected personal and household well-being, paired with an uncertain outlook for employment and job support likely to make renting even less affordable for large amounts of private tenants.

The research identified seven key tenant groups, whose needs are not currently being met by the PRS:

  1. Workers in lower paid jobs
  2. Young people on low income
  3. Formerly homeless
  4. Clients with complex personal or mental health needs
  5. People with physical disabilities
  6. Older people
  7. Those at high risk of homelessness

Reimagining Rent ventures make a difference to the lives of over a thousand people each year across these seven tenant groups. A suite of recommendations to unlock impact like this at an even higher scale, which are aimed at innovators, policymakers, government influencers, councils, landlords, customers and social investors in the sector, are also included in the document – these include the need for: 

  1. Better impact measurement for innovators
  2. Investment into new programmes which support multi-sector innovation, recognising the interdependence of housing and employment
  3. Available avenues for testing early-stage innovation, creating public sector ‘innovation mutuals’
  4. Market engagement to reveal how to drive adoption of tech-for-good solutions
  5. Patient capital as high-impact ventures are time-intensive
  6. More mission-aligned, early-stage finance
  7. Work to understand the viability of impact-motivated developers
  8. Direct involvement of housing innovators – and their beneficiaries – in government policymaking

Helen Goulden, CEO at The Young Foundation said: “It is clear that no one policy, regulation or initiative or enterprise will shift some of the entrenched challenges facing housing in this country. It requires not only a supply of new ideas and ventures but innovative ways to implement regulation, new intermediaries, new policies and a commitment to socially responsible renting by landlords of all kinds. This report broaches a range of innovative ideas to support anyone working towards innovation and systemic change within the private rental sector.”

The report is available to download here.

  • ENDS 

Notes to editors:

  • Spokespeople for interviews or written comment: 
    • Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation — communities expert and former Executive Director of Nesta, the innovation foundation.
  • Key challenge themes faced by innovators within the sector include:
    1. Ventures have difficulty in acquiring customers, particularly in the public sector and among housing associations.
    2. Customer acquisition appears far slower than in other sectors and benefits are accrued across multiple stakeholders.
    3. Ventures struggled to find the right kind of growth capital – often being steered away from social impact by commercial investors.
    4. Those looking to develop new housing stock are struggling to acquire investment and property.
    5. More collaborative, systemic innovation is needed to help vulnerable groups transition into housing and work, particularly given the unpredictability of the benefits system.
    6. The potential of tech to improve renting needs to be better articulated by innovators if it is to be understood by customers and investors.
  • Ventures that participated in the programme:
    1. Cambridge House: Safer Renting
    2. Your Own Place
    3. Kineara
    4. Advice 4 Renters
    5. Smart Renter
    6. Sharing Solutions (Crisis)
    7. Homeless Rooms
    8. Fat Macy’s
    9. rentprofile
    10. rent square
    11. Mortar
    12. Abode Impact
    13. LivShare
    14. Ethical Rental Sector
    15. QI QO Living
    16. The Kohab
    17. London First
    18. branch properties
    19. HomeshareUK

Media enquiries: Sarah Hogg, sarah.hogg@youngfoundation.org / +44 7940 281470

About The Young Foundation: The Young Foundation is a charity based in London, focussed on developing better connected and stronger communities across the UK. We are a UKRI accredited research institute. We work nationally, regionally and locally in alliance with our many partners and funders. Since 1954, we have developed and created over 80 organisations to target unmet social needs, including: Which?, The Open University, Language Line, Social Innovation Exchange, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Uprising and Action for Happiness.