Citylets

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Citylets's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Citylets is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.citylets.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
16 | CITYLETS
Founder and Managing Director
Thomas Ashdown
The PRS now represents 15
per cent of the total Scottish
housing stock
Citylets is Scotland’s leading certified portal for property
to rent, with up to four million site visitors annually.
They are one of the oldest online brands in the UK and
have pioneered much of what is now standard in their sector.
Information services is a core function and their research tool,
Optilet Pro, provides assessments and data on the performance
of the private rented sector, which are used by local councils
and property developers. Founder and Managing Director
Thomas Ashdown discusses the growth of the PRS and the need
to match housing supply to demand.
Established in 1999, we are the original Scottish lettings portal advertising over
50,000 properties per year from over 400 agent offices. We have traded through
a unique period of history, encompassing not only a technological revolution but
also the prominent rise of the PRS itself. Scotland, unlike England and Wales,
has numerous property portals providing those rarest of things: consumer choice
and competition online where a tendency towards a monopoly or duopoly is
moreprevalent.
When we began, the PRS represented five per cent of the total housing stock in
Scotland. It now represents 15 per cent, rising to as high as 26 per cent in major
cities such as Edinburgh. Unsurprisingly, the sector is receiving unprecedented
amounts of political attention from both north and south of the border as the
UK gets to grips with the role of private renting in society and the need to cater
responsibly to “Generation Rent”.
FACTS ABOUT
CITYLETS
»Founder and Managing
Director: Thomas Ashdown
»Established in 1999
»Based in Edinburgh
»Services: PRS data and
property advertising
»No. of employees: 10
»Up to 4 million site visitors per
annum
Citylets
17CITYLETS |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
The balancing of rights between
tenants and landlords is a complex and
delicate matter, but it is essential in
21st-century Britain to house everyone
safely while we continue to grapple
with the root causes of the low
housing supply. It is generally agreed
that successive governments since the
end of the Second World War have
failed to implement a programme for
housebuilding that matches demand
with supply, the results of which are
now playing out in the PRS.
Advertising and data services
We are very proud to have grown
organically and continue to trade
profitably. We provide a technology
product that compares favourably
to those offered by the two large
property sites that dominate the
sector nationally. We are widely
acknowledged as a UK portal pioneer,
credited with the introduction of many
features and services that are now UK
industry standard.
Our core function has been the
provision of advertising and data
services to our clients: the letting
agents of Scotland. We help them
to find quality tenants and appraise
the market value of rental properties.
Technology has been evolving since
the beginning of the web and our
dedicated tech team, who have
remained with us since our inception,
have migrated the platform with
the times: from a simple desktop
website through to tablet and mobile
iterations and, of course, Apple and
Androidapplications.
Information services are one of our
core functions, and our quarterly
market reports, now in their 12th year,
are regarded as the most authoritative
and reliable barometer of the Scottish
rental market. Our research tool,
Optilet Pro, informs local councils,
property advisory businesses and
property developers with investment-
grade detail on the Scottish PRS.
Assisting increased supply
The appetite for good rental data,
upon which organisations within the
private and public sectors can rely,
has increased significantly in the last
few years. Local councils, such as Scotland’s first Build
to Rent development,
Forbes Place in Aberdeen
Our quarterly
market reports,
now in their
12th year, are
regarded as the
most reliable
barometer of
the Scottish
rental market
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
18 | CITYLETS
those of Edinburgh and Glasgow, are
increasingly scrutinising the behaviour
of the rental market as part of their
housing strategies. We are delighted
to be contributing to these strategies
through the provision of data.
Councils’ activities in the PRS can
be varied. Some may be building
housing directly for full PRS or, more
commonly, for mid-market rent which
has emerged as an area of significant
growth. As the name suggests, the
tenure is designed to house working
people who cannot afford to either
buy their own home or rent in the
PRS. Councils supply grants and other
funding assistance to scale providers
of MMR, usually housing associations,
for which they need to assess the
viability of the submitted plans. An
understanding of the full market rates
in any local area allows the competent
assessment of MMR developments.
Build to rent is a nascent industry in
the UK. It is claimed that there are
already in excess of 100,000 rental
properties either delivered or under
delivery through this channel. This
provides much-needed rental stock
to the sector and represents the
beginning of a corporatised PRS in
the UK. This will mean that tenants
can enjoy the benefits of purpose-
built rental properties managed by
large-scale landlords, where security
of tenure is guaranteed, regardless
of the changing legislative and tax
landscape. This is challenging for the
majority of current providers, who are
private individuals with 1-2 properties.
We provide data either directly to
the BTR providers or to the firms that
advise them. To provide perspective,
the single BTR operator Greystar has
as many units under management
globally as the entire Scottish PRS.
A flexible working environment
Based in the West End of Edinburgh,
we provide flexible working which
paid dividends long before it became
a social norm. Almost all of our
employees have children and we
believe that there is simply no other
way to provide a healthy work–life
balance, which ultimately benefits
thecompany.
We also have a lot of fun – essential
when competing against much larger
businesses with market capitalisations
of between two and four billion
pounds. At the end of every year we
invite our clients to a party at the local
comedy club, headlined by household
names. Local Glaswegian Kevin Bridges
performed at one of our first events. It
is fair to say that the free bar for clients
may also hold a certaindraw.
We have been lucky enough to enjoy
the feel of a family company culture,
which almost always dissipates at
larger firms. We support numerous
initiatives in the local community and
are the current sponsor of Scottish
schools cricket and the national senior
competition, the Citylets Scottish Cup.
Our ties with Scottish cricket go back
to 2005, when the national home
ground was the Citylets Grange and
hosted the full suite of top-tier teams
in world cricket.
We are one of the oldest online brands
in the UK. Our first 20 years have been
a fascinating and odds-defying journey.
We look forward with optimism to our
next stage.
We also have a
lot of fun –
essential when
competing
against much
larger
businesses
with market
capitalisations
of between
two and four
billion pounds
Comedian Tom Stade
performing at our 2018
Christmas party

www.citylets.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Citylets. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy