Flats now make up nearly a quarter (23%) of all housing in the UK. The number of flats has increased 4.2% over the last four years, compared to total growth of 2.5% for all UK housing in the same period.
The figure was revealed after Royal Mail’s Address Management Unit partnered with the Centre for Economics and Business Research on a study to investigate the growth of flats across the country. The study was commissioned after Royal Mail noticed that the number of flats, known as multiple residencies, added to the Postcode Address File (PAF) surged by 18% from April to December in 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. The total number of multiple residencies added to PAF between July 2016 and December 2016 was 33,220.
54% of all housing in the London is flats, the highest percentage anywhere in the country, as well having the highest total number of flats (1.89 million). London has also seen the greatest increase in the number of flats; 5.8% over the last four years.
Scotland has the second greatest number of flats – 971,678 – equating to 38% of housing in the area, followed by the South East (824,290 and 22% share of housing). East of England has seen the fastest growth in the number of flats, after London, with an increase of 5.3% for the same period.
Flats by definition are multiple occupancy residences and this automatically makes deliveries more difficult. Firstly there’s an external door to get though and often post will be left in mail boxes at the entrance. That’s fine for letters but with the growth of ecommerce parcels, unlike a house where there could be a plethora of safe places to leave a parcel, flats aren’t as convenient.
Parcels will end up being left in entrance halls or potentially in hallways outside flat doors. At the very least, even if the occupant is at home, a courier might have to climb staircases or ascend in a lift to make a delivery and that takes time.
It’s potentially even worse in the Victorian properties which have been split up into multiple residency buildings. Here there’s probably a tiny letter box and a table in the hallway where everyone’s post ends up. When everyone is out at work there’s just no where for a courier to leave a parcel bar the doorstep in plain view of everyone passing by. Probably only the basement flat will have it’s own front door.
The growth in flats as the accommodation of choice (or perhaps circumstance) goes some way to explain the growth in click and collect, locker solutions, parcel shops in stations and deliveries to work. It’s not just the fear of having your parcel go missing, it’s the convenience of knowing where your delivery is and how quickly you can collect it. Often a quick stop on the way home is faster than knocking on neighbour’s doors hoping they’ve not gone out for the evening (and that they’re people you don’t mind talking to in the first place).
We need more innovative solutions in the UK for flats, perhaps a requirement that a communal locker solution be built in for every new block of flats constructed. In the mean time for ecommerce merchants the change in the UK’s housing profile is the clearest indication yet that we should be offering a choice of delivery options. Flat dwellers may well appreciate very different delivery options to those living in a semi-detached house in the country.