John Lewis plans to build 10,000 homes over the next decade as the high-profile giant seeks to boost its fortunes through home ownership.
The employee-owned retailer has identified sites for 7,000 rental units in its property portfolio. The homes, which will range from one-bedroom to four-bedroom apartments, could be built in department store parking lots, above Waitrose supermarkets or near distribution centers. The company also plans to develop new sites.
Residents of John Lewis Homes can rent with department store furniture or use their own. Concierge services are available in the developments and there may be a Waitrose store next to the entrance.
The brand has not yet been determined, but it is believed that prospective tenants will be able to identify the owner by a sign above the door.
The first John Lewis homes are planned for the South East of England, but the association believes there are opportunities across the country, given the scale of the housing crisis.
According to the Nationwide Building Society, house prices are rising at the fastest rate for 17 years thanks to the government’s stamp duty exemption. Last year they rose by 13.4% to an average of £245,432.
John Lewis’s profits are falling due to competition from online rivals and the impact of store closures. Dame Sharon White, the company’s chief executive, has closed 16 of 51 department stores since taking over in February last year. White, 54, has also cut staff bonuses for the first time since 1953.
This is not the chain’s first attempt to enter the housing market. John Lewis also owns much of Leckford, a Hampshire village in which all of the houses with green doors are owned by the association.
The retailer is preparing to submit several planning applications early next year.
“Normally, a developer tries to maximize their profit and then move on to the next project,” said Chris Harris, the association’s director of real estate. “We don’t try to do that. We try to charge fair rents and stay in the game for the long term.”
John Lewis’ projects are part of the growth of the “build-to-rent” sector, where developers want to offer tenants more security and more information about potential rent increases.
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