Investing in affordable real estate
Our ambition is to have 60% of our total portfolio in the affordable mid-rental segment category (€ 720 to € 1,000; as per January 2020, € 737 and € 1,027). We are currently heavily involved in the ongoing national debate on affordable housing and we have looked at what we can do with our current housing stock. We also take the need for more affordable housing into account in our investment decisions. For instance, in 2019 we decided to raise the rents of our liberalised sector properties by no more than inflation plus 0.5%, which was even lower than the previous year’s inflation plus 1% increase.
In 2019, we also lowered the income requirements for our rental properties, so more people will be eligible to live in them. We have already rented out two properties to a specific target group based on income. This opened up our homes to people who formerly qualified for government-regulated social housing. And of course, it freed up that social housing for the people who really need it. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live in their city of choice, as limiting urban living to a select group will have a major impact on the vibrancy and liveability of cities in the long run. We also worked closely with the municipality of Delft on our first acquisition of homes in the city to create a balanced mix of homes for all income groups, and the total of 302 homes in the Bethelpark project includes 70 mid-rental segment and 18 government regulated apartments.
We have also noted that an increasing number of investors are taking this issue of affordability seriously and are looking to invest in ‘impactful’ residential projects. Given that the biggest challenge is to increase the supply of affordable homes, we believe the best way to maximise our positive societal impact is to invest in more affordable mid-market rental homes. This is why the Fund now focuses even more explicitly on affordable mid-rental segment homes when considering or making acquisitions.
Sustainable procurement and business partner selection
Bouwinvest has Service Level Agreements with its property managers, who are assessed each quarter on topics related to administrative management, technical management (including sustainability), commercial management and tenant satisfaction.
Collaboration with PropTech start-ups and scale-ups
New technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain can improve the quality, productivity and efficiency of our operations. We devote a great deal of attention to new property technologies (PropTech), start-ups and scale-ups that are developing solutions. At Bouwinvest, we foster a culture of innovation, to stay ahead of the ever-changing demands of our investors and tenants and to safeguard the value of our investments by helping to create future-proof cities. We are currently working on innovative solutions in various stages of development.
In addition, our Research department has developed a data integration solution to provide automatic data gathering and an advanced analytics platform. The solution includes a data warehouse, which is essentially a large collection of centrally-managed data from both internal and external sources. The solution supports decision making at operational, tactical and strategic levels and will be expanded over the coming years to unlock more value. In addition to the data integration solution we launched, we are currently looking for a partner who can help us develop a data-gathering and analysis tool to measure the environmental impact of our portfolio in detail. This solution will help us to make our portfolio ‘Paris Proof’ in the long term.
Our ambition is to be part of the early majority by enhancing our involvement in technological development. We focus on three central innovation themes: Sustainability & circularity, Customer & user experience and How we work. Up until now, our focus has been on the launch of new products and the continued development of these products. Some have been scaled up and rolled out on a wider scale, while others have been shut down when it turned out they generated too little added value.
We currently have a portfolio of several PropTech innovations. Examples include:
Pilot for the use of batteries in combination with solar panels to lower the energy use of lifts
Pilots with mobility hubs (Hely, Pon) and parking solutions (Parkbee)
Several community-building apps
Data integration solution to automate data gathering and conduct advanced research for better decision making
Tenant portal, digital contracts and new ways to check the creditworthiness of residential tenants