The UK housing sector is to get a boost of new homes from an unexpected source: John Lewis & Partners. The UK retail giant has announced plans to build as many as 10,000 homes on its land, with homes ranging from studio apartments above premises to four-bedroom homes.
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Currently, the retail group, which includes John Lewis and Waitrose, has enough land to spare to build about 7,000 homes, the company said. These won’t be homes to buy, however, but build-to-rent developments that will be available to rent either furnished or unfurnished. If you choose the furnished option, you will rent a home kitted out with John Lewis furniture.
To honour its partnership structure, John Lewis will offer its workforce, of some 80,000 employees, discounted rents if they choose to rent a home from the company. The first sites to developed are in South East England – where rentals are always in demand and typically very expensive – but there are plans to build all over the country. Many of the new developments will include a Waitrose on site.
The plans to build homes come as John Lewis reels from years of declining revenues – and its first year of a 517-million loss in 2020. Even before the pandemic, the retailer was struggling, but the pandemic has taken a hard toll on its fortunes, with the company opting to close 16 of its 50 stores this year. The move into property will not be unprecedented for John Lewis, following a successful development of 90 rental homes in Leckford, Hampshire, home to Leckfrod Estate, which produces food for Waitrose.
Nina Bhatia, Partner & Executive Director, Strategy and Commercial Development for the John Lewis Partnership, commented: ‘As a business driven by social purpose, we have big ambitions for moving into property rental to address the national housing shortage and support local communities. It will also provide a stable, long term income for the Partnership, new employment opportunities for our Partners and plays to our strength as a trusted brand known for strong service.’