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PropTech Today: Uber and Moda Living collaborate on Build to Rent

It has been announced that Uber, the taxi company, has teamed up with build to rent firm, Moda Living, to ‘revolutionise renting’. 
This is the first time that we have seen such a partnership in the UK.

To quote the press release:
‘Uber and Moda Living...have announced a proptech tie up to cut car ownership and change the way people rent homes across the UK’s largest cities.’
What’s the deal?
Moda are a development giant. Backed by Middle East-based investors, Apache Capital, they plan to build ‘6,000 homes in every major UK city’. This partnership with Uber works on a fairly simple deal; each person who rents one of the properties in their new build to rent development will be given £100 monthly credit from Uber, but only if they agree not to have a parking space in the building. Tenants will then have access to a bespoke Moda app, delivering an Uber to their door with just a click of the button. 
The first UK joint venture between Uber and Moda is to be Angel Gardens in Manchester’s NOMA neighbourhood. It’s currently under construction and will house close to 900 residents when completed in 2019. 
“Everyone wants a more frictionless life and Uber’s model fully aligns with our approach of wanting to drive efficiency and maximise value for our customers.” 
That’s Johnny Caddick, managing director of Moda Living. ‘Drive efficiency and maximise value’, these are the catchphrases of modern technology, the philosophy upon which the foundations of our future world are being laid. 
Too many cars
The aim of this partnership is to cut car ownership, but why?  According to the press release:
“There are around 30 million cars in the UK - and 95% of the time these cars remain parked and unused, taking up valuable space on the street or in car parks. By helping to reduce the need to own a private car, the partnership’s aim is to put urban space to better use and reduce congestion and air pollution over time.”
Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, had this to say: 
“By getting more people to ditch their own vehicles we can put some of the space wasted on parking to much better use.”
Now that’s an interesting thought. Just imagine what could be done with all that city centre land. At the very least, car parks could become the new petrol stations, stocked up with electric charging points. There will, however, have to be some changes in planning regulation. I would hope the argument is pretty clear, but government bodies, slow to adapt, may hold up progress by failing to remove regulations that dictate a certain amount of parking must always be provided.
We are less and less reliant on our vehicles, and this sort of partnership is a viable alternative to personal car ownership. I have no doubt that it will soon become the norm for all developments across our cities. It will free-up enormous amounts of space, and it will be up to us in the property industry to fill those gaps. 
I’m still left with one question, though: This is all well and good in the cities, but what about those of us who still live out in the country? 
I realise that a large proportion of the population live in cities, but that doesn’t mean that those outside should be ignored. People still need their cars out there. The Uber/Moda business model doesn’t work in the country. I’ll be interested to see how/if they attempt to crack the rural market.


Beyond PropTech 
Looking further afield, outside of the confines of PropTech, and this announcement is really quite remarkable: 
Uber, a taxi company, are now playing a major role in property development and city planning. This is a brave new world. A world where companies are not bound by the limitations of their specialist industry. 
This is a world where ideas propel us forward, where our own vision and foresight are the only limitations. A world where companies follow the threads that interlink their industry to the rest of the world.
Market domination, like that which Uber have achieved, delivers great financial return. But in today’s world, that’s just the beginning. The astonishing influence and power that tech companies are achieving has opened the door to something rarely seen before; ultra-diversification. 
I feel like it started with Apple. When the personal computer company became a cultural icon with a portable music player, it caused a market-wide mentality shift. The question companies began asking themselves was: how else can our tech be applied?
Today, Tesla are building roof tiles, Facebook are sending satellites into the sky and Google are building cities. This is how the world works now. And one thing that we in the property industry should be very aware of is the pace at which all of this progress is happening. Uber was only founded eight years ago. Technology moves at a breakneck speed and trying to keep up can sometimes feel exhausting, but we can’t let our foot off the pedal, we have to keep looking forward, steadfast and fluid all at once. 
We’ve got one hell of a job ahead of us, and although it might feel knackering, the eventual payoff will be more than worth it.

*James Dearsley is founder of the Digital Marketing Bureau and a PropTech communicator. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Not sure I would class this as Uber playing a major role in property development- but definitely an interesting pledge. However, how long can Uber keep making multi-billion dollar losses? The patent battle with google on self-driving is pretty much their make or break. Lose and they will probably be one of the biggest non-starters ever to exist. Can they really tussle with the true might of Google?

  • James Dearsley

    Are you sure Kristjan, urban developments without the need for parking is quite a big deal in my view when it comes to property development.

    As for a tussle with Google. Now that is an interesting one. #UltraDiversification is meaning Google is actually building cities, whereas uber is facilitating improved (or at least different) buildings. Fascinating times.

    Uber's bigger challenge will be whether their taxi licence gets renewed again here in the UK - that is perhaps more interesting!

    Hope all well K


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