Victoria Gate department store by ACME

John Lewis to repurpose car parks to create 10,000 homes

UK department store John Lewis has revealed its plans to become a residential landlord by converting its own shop car parks into rental housing across the UK.

Over the next decade, approximately 10,000 John Lewis homes will be built on sites that also include plots above the retailer's Waitrose supermarkets and next to its distribution centres.

Plans address the national housing shortage

The employee-owned company said the plans draw on its "social purpose" and are an effort to help address Britain's housing shortage.

It is also hoped to revive its fortunes following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on UK high streets and growing competition from its online rivals.

"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," said John Lewis executive director of strategy and commercial development Nina Bhatia.

"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."

First homes to be built in southeast England

So far, John Lewis has identified space for 7,000 of the 10,000 rental homes across its existing property portfolio, reported The Sunday Times.

However, the company said that some homes will also be built on new sites, with the retailer preparing to submit a number of planning applications in early 2022.

Details of the architect that John Lewis will collaborate with on the housing have not been revealed. The company previously collaborated with London firm Acme on a shopping centre in Leeds.

The first John Lewis homes are planned for southeast England and will range from studio flats to four-bedroom houses. However, the company is confident there will be opportunities for homes to be built across the country due to the extent of the housing crisis, which is seeing property prices skyrocket nationwide.

UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick recently blamed a "lengthy and absurdly complex" planning process for high housing costs in England, as he revealed a new planning system that will automatically grant new housing planning permission in England.

However, this was widely disputed by architects such as Charles Holland, who said: "This is just absolute boll*cks. Planning regulations are absolutely not the reason for the housing crisis".

John Lewis furniture will be available to hire

Future residents of a John Lewis home will be able to use their own furnishings or hire furniture from the retailer as part of their rent.

This follows John Lewis' recent announcement that it was to begin renting its furniture out to customers following a successful trial, as it is a "sustainable choice for our customers".

Renting furniture has become an increasingly popular trend in recent years due to the growing popularity of the sharing economy. This has also seen Swedish furniture giant IKEA begin renting its furniture out.

It is expected some of the John Lewis housing developments will also come with a concierge service and may feature Waitrose convenience stores.

American firm KTGY Architecture + Planning proposed transforming unused cark parks into a framework for housing units in 2019. Named Park House, the proposal mages housing made from shipping containers placed within repurposed multi-storey parking garages.

The main image is of the John Lewis flagship in Victoria Gate taken by Jack Hobhouse.