The Western world may be the richest society in history, but it could also be the saddest. Generation Rent – 16 to 34-year-olds – is revealing much about the lack of housing in the UK, and what it’s doing to our sense of fulfilment.

With news that a third of millennials are likely to rent ‘from cradle to grave’, it is fair to ask what effect this is having on mental health, companionship, and British communal life. The Build to rent (BTR) sector should be doing all it can to plug these holes in wellbeing before they become even wider…

Does the problem really exist?

Statements this broad don’t offer much unless there is clear evidence behind them. Yet several studies are showing that the effect of renting for decades – with no end in sight – is making people feel isolated, trapped and nervous about making friends.

The Office for National Statistics came to such conclusions in a piece of research they published in April. Thousands of people in the Generation Rent bracket were surveyed alongside others. One in four claimed that they didn’t trust their neighbours, compared to a 45% average across the whole social spectrum. 55% of the 16-34s also said they didn’t feel attached to their neighbourhood, whilst 61% of them reported occasional loneliness – a 15% rise on other demographics.

Homeowners, by contrast, are almost half as susceptible to “feeling lonely often or always” than millennial renters. Further investigations have shown that loneliness is contagious too: if a young person knows someone who is going through a tough time, they are more prone to reflecting the same qualities in their own lives.

The UK is in danger of fostering a wave of adults who are sad, confused, disengaged, and unsure about what their community may look like. Yet BTR developers, as well as Build-to-Rent accommodation providers, can help solve the crisis by taking some ingenious steps forward.

Rebalancing the social scales

Today’s rental sites can take an active approach in communal design, offers and amenities in order to promote a greater sense of community. The goal is to give people an excuse to talk to each other, in a welcoming environment.

There are numerous ways to do so. Bright courtyards – with a garden, or architecture that anyone can sit and appreciate – will facilitate conversation. The same is true of weekly or monthly social events in an on-site area: perhaps a ‘meet and greet’ pizza night, or a pub quiz that gathers everyone into teams. Exercise centres can work out our social skills more than we may realise. And there is value in plush, excellently installed furniture for public hallways and common rooms – all the better for tenants who want to lounge, chat and strike up a friendship.

Globally, there is no sea change in sight for how we choose to live. Our tastes remain in a city, backed by all the modern conveniences we could ask for. But real, human connection is the biggest convenience of all, even when it comes from a handful of smart choices. Take Twenty Twenty Living’s furniture collections as a starting point for communal design, and work from there to combat the emotional fatigue of Generation Rent. We can advise on, source and install the furnishing you’re looking for.