Over the past year, the UK population has spent a significant amount of time living locally. The days of the busy commute are long gone, and we’ve steered clear from public transport wherever possible — leaving many of us to ‘make do’ with what’s in arms reach.

But while staying local has come with its challenges, such as feeling isolated from family and friends, this new way of living has had its perks. It’s promoted positivity and brought us closer with our neighbours, fostering a community spirit that’s hard to resist. 

But why? What effects has this hyper-localisation had on the resident experience and how might we expect it to shape the rental market moving forward? Let HomeHero break it down.

The survival of local, independent businesses.

So, how has this shift to living locally brought us positivity and togetherness? Well, for a start, we’ve become champions of local, independent businesses.

According to the Local Data Company, 1,833 independent shops, cafes, and other high-street retailers shut within the pandemic’s first 8-months. Whereas 6,001 outlets of chain stores — defined as having at least five bases — closed its doors to consumers within the same time frame. 

It’s no surprise that smaller, independent retailers have coped far better with the pandemic’s wrath than larger retail chains; due to their agility and reductions in rent. 

According to a recent Yell Business report, around 76% of small and medium businesses introduced new services, such as takeaways or pop-up shops, to accommodate lockdown restrictions. 

In particular, farm shops are one of many local businesses that have thrived through doing this. A survey by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) found that 79% of farm retailers introduced click-and-collect services, with a further 69% implementing home deliveries. 

This, coupled with the ability to replenish stock quickly, has contributed to a surge in sales during the first national lockdown — a rise that a whopping 92% of farm retailers experienced.

Combating mental health and fostering togetherness

While local, independent businesses have utilised their agility to their advantage, another key component to their success is how they can combat feelings of loneliness and foster community spirit. 

According to a recent Mental Health Foundation survey, 45% of the UK population felt anxious or worried last November. But most notably, 25% of people experienced loneliness — with that number rising to 34% in 25-34-year olds. 

The part local businesses play in combating this mental health epidemic is creating a personal, safe and familial shopping experience. 

‘You’re seeing a renaissance of local streets,’ says Ross Bailey, founder of Appear Here. ‘The skate shop, the bike shop, the streetwear shop is as much about the people as the stuff.’ 

These smaller shops with easy-to-follow social distancing measures help create a calming environment, whereby stopping to chat with a friendly face feels comfortable.

‘The notion of neighbourhood has really come into play’, says Chantelle Nicholson, a new pop-up restaurant owner in Covent Garden. ‘You get to know your neighbours, whereas before you just had blinkers on and were just trying to survive’. 

As a result, communities are blossoming, with hyper-localisation continuing to inject positivity into the areas of our lives we need it most.

What changes will the rental market see?

As studies reveal that consumers intend to shop more locally, more ethically and more independently in the future, many experts predict that independent businesses will continue to boom after the pandemic. 

So, what does this mean for the rental market? Well, more residents will want to reside in areas where all retailers and amenities are packaged neatly on their doorstep. 

This is where big rental developments, like those in Wembley Park, may prove popular. They boast a wealth of independent shops, restaurants and entertainment venues within walking distance of their residences. 

These rental complexes may also offer resident bars, lounges and on-site gyms, making them an attractive choice for those seeking to join a thriving, local community.

But there will always be a ‘hustle and bustle’ to these rental complexes, which may water down the ‘tight-knit’ community that we’ve all grown to know and love by shopping locally.

Zoopla searches for properties in Mole Valley, Surrey, surged by 74% between September to November 2020 — a district that pockets many small villages with flourishing communities.

But whether you’re residing in the city or the countryside, many renters will be craving a resident experience where independent shops, amenities and the ‘togetherness’ they create is easily accessible. 

Kindness, volunteering and charitable work

The effects of hyper-localisation on the resident experience go beyond our new shopping habits. Volunteering and charitable work has also played a crucial role in bringing neighbourhoods closer together.

In the first national lockdown, over 10million adults volunteered to help their local communities. 1 in 5 adults gave approximately 3 hours of their free time to deliver food parcels, pick up medication and phone to chat with those struggling with isolation.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that supports over 1,200 UK foodbanks, also reported a 47% increase in the number of parcels distributed in the six months leading to September 2020. 

Between April and September 2020, The Trussell Trust provided 1.2 million emergency food parcels to those in crisis — giving a record-breaking 2,600 packages a day to children since the start of the pandemic. 

While these figures reflect on the austerity riddling the UK, they also put a positive spin on pandemic by highlighting how it revitalised the very meaning of what it is to be a community; to connect with and help others.

One neighbourhood, in particular, is a prime example of the revival of community spirit. The village of Quidhampton, in Wiltshire, supported The Trussell Trust by collecting food, donations and plastering protest posters around the town — garnering effective change

Increased use and appreciation of technology

For many residents, social media has been a key component in promoting kindness and positivity, whether for those in need or the wider community.

For the village of Quidhampton, the widespread effort to fight against food poverty in their local area started in a village-wide email.

According to research by Facebook, 38% of respondents said the most important online group they’re a part of has its members principally drawn from their local area or city. 

Not only do residents use these groups to stay up-to-date on local happenings, but they also provide self-organised support, comfort and togetherness. 

Society has seen a real shift in the use of social media. Our consumption has surged, and platforms that were once condemned for spreading hatred are now appreciated for doing the opposite. 

So, how will the rental market adapt to this? Just like us at HomeHero, the industry will utilise instant messaging and group posting to connect residents with their communities in innovative ways.

Whether you need a neighbour to pick up a carton of milk or walk the dog for you, technology will enable communities to continue to band closer together — even when hyper-localisation wanes this coming year.

The Takeaways…

While national lockdowns have had its challenges, the effects of hyper-localisation on the resident experience has brought us support in areas we needed the most. 

We’ve seen a revival in independent businesses, made connections with our neighbours and shown empathy to those in need. 

Hyper-localisation has shown us that even the darkest and bleakest cloud has its silver lining, and there have been some revolutionary changes that are here to stay. 

And for us at HomeHero, we look forward to seeing them come into further fruition. 

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