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Centre for Digital Built Britain


CDBB Week 2019 showcases CDBB’s diverse range of work and engagement with our industry, academic and policy networks. As part of Friday’s #CDBBWeek2019 Digital Roundup, the Centre invited a number of researchers from CDBB funded research networks and early career researchers to shine a light on their projects supporting a digital built Britain.


“It is the breadth of the task and the research questions we need to ask that makes developing the CDBB research agenda such an exciting and challenging proposition. If we are to understand fully how the buildings and infrastructure of the future are going to deliver better services to our citizens, we need to take a truly multidisciplinary approach. We need engineers and architects to work with economists, linguists, social scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, mathematicians and computer scientists – among others – to understand both the impact of the built environment on how we live our lives and how to design, build, operate and integrate assets that can deliver better outcomes for us all.“ Dr Jennifer Schooling OBE, Chair of the CDBB Research Strategy Advisory Group


Reinventing Renting: The use of digital technology in housing for ‘generation rent’


“An increasing number of people in the UK have no choice but to live in rented housing. If we can unlock the potential of digital technologies to improve the sector, we could improve the lives of thousands of households” Dr Gemma Burgess, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

Digital technology is transforming the way we live and work. The aim of this research is to understand how digital technology is being used within the private rented sector.

The private rented sector has grown dramatically in recent years. The percentage of people aged 25 to 35 renting in this sector increased from 27 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2017. Digital technology is increasingly being used to facilitate greater access and convenience, efficiency in management and sense of community. This research provides an overview of how digital technologies are transforming different parts of the private rented sector and has the potential to inform future housing and technological developments and shape policy in this area.


Digital technologies to improve rental sector

This research aims to:

• understand how digital technology is being used to improve the rental experience in different types of housing

• understand the technology being provided to landlords and tenants in traditional buy to let housing

• investigate new models of housing such as ‘build to rent’ and ‘co-living’

• understand how tenants engage with digital technology.

New digital technology has the potential to transform three key areas of renting: access to properties; management of properties; and lived experience. The research shows that digital innovation is being used most commonly for access (finding a rental property) and there is increasing use of digital services by landlords for managing their rented properties, but that there is so far less impact on lived experience, e.g. using digital platforms to communicate with landlords, or using apps to spilt bills with house mates.

Challenges and opportunities

Barriers to adopting technology and digital innovation by residents in the private rented sector relate to three main areas: knowledge about technology; willingness to use it; and issues of trust and data privacy. The sector needs to address issues of trust and data privacy if use of digital technology is to be used more by tenants in the private rented sector. There is currently no end-to-end digital platform that meets all the needs of landlords and tenants.

The long-term vision is for digital technology:

• to reduce costs and make access to the private rented sector easier for tenants, particularly because these tend to be households with low incomes

• to make management of properties easier and therefore improve the quality and state of repair of the rented housing stock, which is currently the worst tenure for quality and energy efficiency

• to improve the experience of living in the private rented sector, as tenants express relatively high levels of dissatisfaction, but renting is growing as a tenure. 



Dr Gemma Burgess - Acting Director and Principal Research Associate, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge and CDBB Housing Digital Built Britain Network lead