Canary Wharf continues to reinvent itself. After the financial crash of 2008, the city evolved and increasingly featured residential homes – though it was still primarily one of London’s two powerhouses in the financial sector.
After Covid, the East London neighbourhood faces another reimaging, and this time it’s likely to become a prime hotspot for people living in the capital. Why? Because a hybrid work from home model will become more familiar moving forward, resulting in fewer businesses needing office space.
That leaves a gap in the market for more homes, and Build-to-Rent could make a significant contribution So in this guide, we’re focusing on Canary Wharf and why Build-to-Rent could play an integral part in its future.
The rise and fall of Canary Wharf
Built in the 1980s, Canary Wharf quickly became its own little metropolis in the capital, mainly because it felt like a city within itself. Nowhere in London looked like Canary Wharf, and it built a reputation as one of the most important financial institutions in the world. Then the Lehman Brothers almost brought it to its knees.
The finance giants collapsed at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, and Lehman Brothers soon vacated a 33-storey tower right in the heart of Canary Wharf, despite signing a 30-year lease. The result saw the Building’s owner – who owns and develops much of Canary Wharf’s estate – left out of pocket. The impact was far-reaching in the E14 postcode, and it laid the foundations for Canary Wharf’s transformation to a residential area.
More homes, fewer offices
Some 13 years later, and we could be about to see more sweeping changes in Canary Wharf. Pre-Covid, it was the destination for 120,000 office workers. That number, however, is set to decrease as companies move to a WFH hybrid.
Passenger numbers into Canary Wharf are set to take at least another 12 months to recover, if not more. So as professional demand dwindles, the reliance on resi will only continue. Enter the private rental sector. Rented homes are set to explode in the capital, with 60% of the city’s residential properties occupied by renters in 2025.
It leaves an opportunity to provide high-quality housing in one of London’s most intriguing neighbourhoods. And you could argue that the residentialisation of Canary Wharf is well under way.
The rise of Build-to-Rent
Build-to-Rent continues to go from strength to strength, and there are already 150,000 units either completed, under construction or greenlit in the UK. Many of those are located in London, with a fair few in Canary Wharf.
Build-to-Rent operator Vertus is one of them, with its 10 George Street and 8 Water Street communities, while Grainger has Millet Place in the E14 postcode. Then there’s Fizzy Living with communities in nearby Canning Town and Poplar, with Grainger in nearby Silvertown.
And there’s more development scheduled, as Vertus is set to take over a one million sq ft office building at 1 Park Place on the estate for a 60-storey Build-to-Rent tower. It’s come at a vital time, too, as mega-companies like Barclays and Credit Suisse consider downsizing their office footprint.
The benefits of Build-to-Rent are obvious. Homes designed exclusively for renters with a focus on social spaces speak to the needs of modern-day Londoners. Plus, they offer flexibility and security, something not always associated with the renting in the UK.
Increasing travel connections
With expanding travel options, accessibility to Canary Wharf will only improve. And that’s despite it already having a handy DLR network and tube station on the Jubilee Line. The introduction of the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) will also provide excellent connections to Heathrow Airport.
People living in Canary Wharf will be able to access most of London with relative ease, whether they’re popping into the West End, catching a flight abroad or accessing other parts of the capital.
Resi in Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is becoming increasingly residential, and Build-to-Rent schemes will only increase the quality of homes available in the area. There’s still a massive role for the financial sector to play in the E14 postcode, but there’s no doubt that residential will be key to the neighbourhood’s future.