Department store John Lewis has announced plans to build 10,000 rental homes over the next few years to help address the national housing crisis.
Around 7,000 of the homes would be built on sites in John Lewis’s existing portfolio, while the remainder will be on new sites.
The high street stalwart has said it wants to have a strong social purpose in the future, and wants to play its part in addressing the national housing crisis.
Its first properties will range from studio flats to houses, it said.
It is understood no existing stores will be demolished to make space for the new venture.
Nina Bhatia, executive director of strategy and commercial development at John Lewis Partnership, said: “As a business driven by social purpose, we have big ambitions for moving into property rental to address the national housing shortage and support local communities.
“It will also provide a stable, long-term income for (the) partnership, new employment opportunities for our partners and plays to our strength as a trusted brand known for strong service.”
The new direction comes following a series of bruising years for John Lewis, where it has struggled to compete in a rapidly changing and increasingly online marketplace.
John Lewis reported a £517 million pre-tax loss for the year to January 30, 2021.
In March, it announced eight stores would not re-open at the conclusion of lockdown, putting 1,465 jobs at risk.
It brought the total number of planned closures to 16 following last autumn’s news that eight stores would close with a potential loss of 1,300 jobs.
But it hopes to swiftly return to profit with a programme of rapid diversification, including growing its financial services arm and a £1 billion investment in its online business over the next five years.
In October, John Lewis won conditional planning permission to turn 45% of its flagship Oxford Street store into office space from Westminster City Council.
The new housing developments will be complete with a Waitrose convenience store close to the entrance and a concierge service.
Future tenants could even rent their homes fully furnished in John Lewis decor if they so choose, the company said.