The rise of solo living across Australia is well documented and undeniable. The ABS tells us that in Australia, single-person homes make up roughly two million (almost 25%) of all households. That number is predicted to increase to between 3 and 3.5 million in 2041.
More and more Australians are embracing solo living, creating a new challenge for our property market. Content with their living arrangements, these renters seek spaces that suit their unique needs, delivering on location, amenity, and a community right on their doorstep.
For the most part, feeling part of a community is at the heart of needs when it comes to our homes, begging the question of how our built environments can accommodate the needs of this growing renter demographic.
The answer might just lie with build-to-rent – more specifically, a shared economy that makes the thought of living with strangers not just tolerable – but almost desirable.
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While each build-to-rent development is unique, there’s a relatively consistent range of amenities that these developers provide their residents. Most share the same design intent, beginning with a ground level that welcomes residents with a lobby-style lounge.
The neighbourhoods of private, self-contained rooms share semi-private rooms where tenants feel comfortable developing a community.
On each level, build-to-rent complexes are tailored directly to tenant needs. It’s the little touches like dining and living spaces, vibrant entertainment areas and even quiet reading nooks.
Tenants are encouraged to come together on the rooftop with building-wide amenities, including pools, barbecues and group workouts in purpose-built health and wellness areas.
Building social connection
Social connection is a pretty pervasive human desire. While living alone doesn’t necessarily immediately equate to loneliness, the truth is that loneliness can play a large part in the living experience for some.
Generally speaking, renters living alone tend to fall into one of two categories:
- those who choose to rent alone (typically young professionals who have the resources to do so comfortably); and
- those who’ve fallen into the situation after a relationship breakdown or significant life event.
The social aspect of build-to-rent feels like a significant and motivating factor. Beyond the interactions with other residents, build-to-rent buildings can also provide a sense of connection.
It could be the Goldilocks ‘just right’ ideal: If you want to be alone, you can stay in your apartment, but if you fancy interacting with others, you can spend time in the co-living spaces.
For many build-to-rent operators, a key performance indicator is creating personal and professional connections within a building. These complexes are designed with space in mind to encourage incidental interactions.
It’s an opportunity to bump into your neighbours or catch up for a yoga session or coworking day. Rather than feeling cooped up, children are allowed to play in shared spaces and form playgroups.
What makes a robust build-to-rent community?
> The right services: Because all apartments in a build-to-rent project are owned and managed by a single operator, there’s greater scope for extra facilities and services and investment in community engagement. Spaces and facilities within the complex all act as an incubator for socialisation.
> The right location: The walkability of homes plays a crucial role in ensuring lone-person living doesn’t become lonely-person living. Many of these pet-friendly, boutique build-to-rents are built in blocks close to the shops, nightlife and culture and within proximity to transport or the CBD.
> The right technology: Tech will need to play a big role in facilitating physical connection and developing interest groups, helping residents communicate with each other. Build-to-rent building apps can also help tenants book services and spaces, request maintenance, give feedback and more.
It’s a concept that deserves attention
Australia has a window of opportunity to reflect on what we want our future cities to look like. To do that, we must acknowledge the diversity of our solo renters and their needs to ensure inclusive housing for all.
While build-to-rent does come across as an attractive solo living option with things like the bond, furniture and all facilities in one bill, it’s worth acknowledging that the model is currently limited to those on moderate to high incomes.
Build-to-rent tenants pay extra rent for shared amenities and an enhanced communal space. It’s a concept that specifically targets a niche demographic that is less price sensitive.
But building and maintaining extraordinary communities seems a worthwhile mission. In return, build-to-rent developers are seeing longer tenures and reduced turnover.
While still in its infancy in Australia, build-to-rent is a concept that deserves attention. It’s providing an alternative model for future living, forming a neighbourhood complex of like-minded tenants who are seeking out human connection and community.
Rent.com.au is Australia's largest company dedicated to renters and is owned and operated by ASX-listed Rent.com.au Limited (RNT:ASX). For over 15 years, Rent.com.au has exclusively focused on making renters' lives easier by making it easier to find a property, secure it, move in and pay rent.