‘#Subscription Living’ – framing new rental platforms in the UK’s Build-to-Rent market

Authors: Alexander M. Laxton*, The University of Birmingham, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science
Topics: Economic Geography, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: financialization, rental markets, co-living, co-working, home, young people
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As Bewsick et al. suggested, institutional investment into a new private rented sector offered one gateway for the entry of global corporate landlords (GCLs) into the UK housing market (Beswick et al., 2016b). Build to Rent (BTR) is the name given to this emerging market, with the term both a physical form or type of housing stock and an operational investment and housing (asset) management model.

The paper confirms the scale of these investments, while highlighting the mobilization of a pro-market discourse infused with ideas drawn from the sharing economy. In the form of co-living, this discourse is peppered with the richest claims-making. Young urban consumers are framed as willing subjects, favouring access over ownership and personal growth over capital gains. Market entrants propose to ‘disrupt’ the housing market, meeting a need for ‘community’ in exchange for the sacrifice of personal living space, and the offer of shared amenities, co-working and entrepreneurship. More broadly, those predicting the real estate opportunities of the future point to the increasing synergies of work and home, with the concept of space-as-a-service fuelling the growth of platforms which claim to both enable and capture the value of more productive use of urban space.

Drawing on an ethnographic accounts of living in the London co-living market, selected market discourse, and interviews with young renters and industry professionals, the paper highlights how the cultural hegemony of the digital economy is being used to support the legitimation of precarious forms of contemporary capitalism on new rental platforms.

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