Guest Blog: Mainstay Group Limited - Combatting Urban Loneliness Through Inclusivity

Mainstay is combatting urban loneliness through inclusivity.

A 2018 survey from The Economist revealed that more than two in ten adults in the UK often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated. The UK is in the grips of a loneliness epidemic, and its impact is concerning – scientists found in a 2017 report that loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

The number of single households is on the rise, and due to increase by a quarter (1.7m) by 2039, according to government projections. Therefore, many working-age Britons spend a sizeable chunk of their time commuting, getting their heads down at work, and coming home in the evening to an empty house.

Slipping into this routine can see isolation quickly becoming the norm, with many people not realising how little social interaction they’re experiencing day-to-day for some time. Big cities tend to lack the tight-knit community feel often found in smaller towns and villages, making urban loneliness especially widespread in this day and age.

However, the way in which we inhabit our cities presents the UK with a unique opportunity to help eradicate the loneliness problem creeping into our society. The rise of initiatives such as build-to-rent and co-living is seeing ‘Generation Rent’ live in a more connected, sociable way, as developers create schemes with ample shared space and communal facilities.

It’s crucial, though, that once a developer has finished constructing a scheme, the notion of encouraging interaction isn’t forgotten – and Kate Magill, associate director for the north west at Mainstay Residential, believes it is the responsibility of a managing agent to pick up the mantle.

Kate manages 14 buildings across the region, including the Urban Splash-built Timber Wharf/MoHo/Burton Place portfolio in Manchester. Her team has also recently been instructed on Downtown, an upmarket scheme in Salford.

“As property managers, we’re finding more and more that we’re having to adopt a ‘lifestyle management’ approach – and there’s so much we’re doing within that which is fundamental to stopping people experiencing loneliness.

“There’s a young community in Downtown, and a lot of students,” Kate explains. “In particular, we’ve seen a large number of international students decide to call Downtown home, many of whom don’t speak English as a first language.

“These demographics – young people, students, people possibly living away from home for the first time, people who aren’t native English speakers – can be particularly susceptible to feeling lonely, as they’re trying to find their feet in a new city.

“That’s why we as property managers need to ensure we’re aware and on hand to help.”

Beyond the buildings they manage, though, Mainstay also looks to integrate occupiers into the wider cities they’re living in, with the team staying up to speed with everything happening locally and making tailored recommendations of things to do and see for residents.

Kate and her colleagues have also in the past arranged tours with Manchester City Council so that Mainstay residents can get to know the city. “It’s not just about the building, it’s about the community,” Kate concludes. “A young person could live in the plushest apartment block possible but still feel cut off from other people that live there and at odds with the city it’s located in."