The Cambridge rental market is stronger than ever post-pandemic, says Alex Bloxham, head of residential lettings at Bidwells
The residential lettings market has been busy throughout the Covid-19 crisis – and it’s showing no signs of slowing. While it’s true that many have sought out more space and chosen less central locations to get that, it’s also clear that flats and townhouses in Cambridge’s city centre are still highly sought after.
An interesting thing to note is that lettings have been on the rise – in fact, our own agency has seen a 140% increase on the same period last year. Properties with additional internal and outdoor space are particularly in demand, which makes sense given how much more time we’ve spent at home during lockdown. It also seems that many would prefer to be close to work, local amenities and activities – so are keen to secure living spaces in the city centre.
It’s evident that many tenants are willing to compromise on space to live in a quality Cambridge location. Average prime apartment rents remain at the same level compared to before the pandemic, with the prime rents for one-bedroom apartments 10% higher than 2016 levels.
Over the past five years, rents for smaller apartments in the city centre remain one of the best-performing sectors in Cambridge. The supply of such housing in the heart of the city is limited, so attention from investors has heightened.
Properties with additional space are particularly in demand
One contributor to the market’s success is the growth of the science and technology sector in Cambridgeshire. The latest official data shows a 60% increase in professional and scientific employment in the Cambridge cluster over the five years, to the end of 2019.
Cambridge’s science and business parks have remained active during the Covid-19 crisis, and the addition of the new AstraZeneca facility is drawing even more tenants into the local area. A new global R&D centre and corporate HQ for the company, it’s expected to increase rental demand over the rest of 2021 and into the new year.
The increase in companies relocating to new science and technology facilities across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc will provide a further push on rental demand over the next 12 months. With the hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we can look to the future of Cambridge’s economy to see how it might go on to affect the rental market.
The rise in employment for the science and technology hub within Cambridgeshire highlights the demand for property in the city centre. While hybrid working practices appear inevitable for many, the science and technology industry doesn’t lend itself to working from home, and consequently, there is still a demand to be in the laboratories and offices, meaning many are looking for homes with a short commute. Any new developments coming forward across the city will be welcomed, as there is a shortage of available prime rental space, particularly near science and business parks.