Reimagining Rent: Report unveils innovation in the future of the private rented sector

The Young Foundation has 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:

• Workers in lower paid jobs
• Young people on low income
• Formerly homeless
• Clients with complex personal or mental health needs
• People with physical disabilities
• Older people
• 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: 
 
• Better impact measurement for innovators
• Investment into new programmes which support multi-sector innovation, recognising the interdependence of housing and employment
• Available avenues for testing early-stage innovation, creating public sector 'innovation mutuals’
• Market engagement to reveal how to drive adoption of tech-for-good solutions
• Patient capital as high-impact ventures are time-intensive
• More mission-aligned, early-stage finance
• Work to understand the viability of impact-motivated developers
• Direct involvement of housing innovators - and their beneficiaries - in government policymaking
 
Helen Goulden, CEO at The Young Foundation, says: “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.”