John Lewis rental housing setback as chief steps down…

Chris Harris, seen as the architect of the move by the John Lewis Partnership into rental housing, is stepping down this autumn.

He has been property director of the firm for five years and was instrumental in setting up the partnership’s bid to become a major Build To Rent player, as part of its bid to diversify.

“After five wonderful years I’ve decided that the time is right for me to explore new opportunities outside of the Partnership. Working for a Partner-owned organisation, with purpose at its heart, is very special – and I’m particularly grateful to those Partners in the Property and Build to Rent teams that I have had the enormous pleasure to work with, have provided me with so much support, and have made sure that we are well set up to deliver our strategic goals” he says.

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Harris was seen as instrumental in securing a £500m deal with the Abrdn finance house which has helped fund what is believed to be a 10,000 BTR ambition; so far some 1,000 are at the planning stage, mostly at sites over Waitrose stores in Bromley and West Ealing in London, and at a former John Lewis depot in Reading.

“I’d like to personally thank Chris for all that he has done for the Partnership and the important role he has played in setting us up for future success. He leaves us with our very best wishes for the future” says Berangere Michel, the partnership’s executive director of finance. 

Harris’ work at John Lewis also involved managing the closure of 16 department stores and a 10 per cent cut in the size of the  Waitrose estate.

A year ago a statement from the partnership revealed that it would offer short- and long-term lets when the flats at the first three locations are completed. 

* The John Lewis Partnership has this week written down the value of its head office by some £15.6m, due to the continuation of working from home and a widespread drop in commercial property values. The company has closed seven floors of the building.

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