Fancy a slice of Ruburb pie?

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Fancy a slice of Ruburb pie?

The high housing prices throughout the United Kingdom have our costly cities eating a slice of Ruburb pie. That’s not a misspelling. Ruburb is a portmanteau to mean rural suburbs.

While changes to house prices understandably affect the property market, they also significantly impact Britain’s social and civic structures. There is a polarisation of capital between affluent consumers and those who cannot afford to buy who have been forced to rent or move elsewhere.

Experian UK, a leading global information, data and analytics services company, revealed that more of us are moving to Ruburbs as a result of high housing costs and insufficient income. We’re not talking about individuals who long to wave goodbye to the hustle-and-bustle of city life. This influx of residents to rural suburbs is mainly people that work in the major cities throughout the UK, but cannot afford to live within the city.

WSP, an engineering firm working with University College London on a project regarding all of the municipal buildings in London, estimates 77,000 new homes might be built above 79 non-A&E hospitals in London. No doubt, this is a creative solution to the housing shortage in the capital city and, while living above a hospital is part of the city life for some, not everyone can afford nor desires it.

Furthermore, as Generation Y, those born between 1980 and the early 2000s, matures and transforms into young families, funky flats over shops in Camden close to one’s favourite club aren’t the pinnacle of importance when family matters gain precedence. Something’s gotta give when government research shows that wages for 22 to 30-year olds have fallen by 15 per cent since 2008, on top of the looming student debts hanging over their heads.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports since 2011 Britain has experienced the first fall in the last 100 years of the percentage of people owning a house. To quantify this statement, between 2001 and 2011, there was a 1.7 million rise in households – 1.6 million of those households were rented. Data from Land Registry indicates that house prices have exceeded by over 36 per cent while Shelter reported in July 2014 that a mere 86 houses on the market were affordable for the average family. This is where ruburbs come in.

The British public is no stranger to suburbs, but the ruburb, not quite rural and not exactly suburban, is a new creation. Experian UK describes this phenomenon as, “seemingly rural locations populated by suburbanites”. Of course, rurban life is not solely the creation of housing prices. Extended transport links, hybrid cars and ever-growing car commuting have all contributed to the scattering of citizens away from the city. In fact, 2014 saw 490,000 British citizens flocked to rurban communities seeking the mix of country tranquillity whilst accessing the cities for work and leisure.

Moving to rural suburbs isn’t the only solution as commuter towns, market towns and small cities rise in popularity. Young professionals with starting salaries of £15-19k are increasingly living out of the city in market towns and small cities, such as Hatfield, Cambridge, Oxford and Bury St Edmunds, whereas maturing singles with an average income of £20-29k are most likely to reside in commuter towns like Crawley, Milton Keynes, Thurrock and Erdington.

The top 10 locations for these ‘Satellite Settlers’ to shack up are Evesham, Cirencester, Dorchester, Penzance, Yeovil, Kandal, Bury St Edwards, Bangor, Banbury and Central Cambridge. As the map indicates, the high penetration of Satellite Settlers, citizens living outside of and working within major cities, surround the country’s most popular hubs, London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Oxford.


Unfortunately, the housing prices in these smaller cities and market towns have greatly increased as they have gained popularity. Nationwide informed us that St. Albans, a commuter town within 30 miles from central London, experienced the strongest house price growth in 2014 with prices swelling by 24 per cent in 12 months. St. Albans has been placed at the top of Nationwide’s best performing regional towns, above London, as the average house price reaches £479,000. As the map suggests and Nationwide states that Cambridge, Belfast, and Reading also moved to the top of the list as their house prices and popularity grew during 2014.

Not all this doom and gloom though. Help to Buy, the government’s affordable home ownership schemes, can assist English residents with equity loans, mortgage guarantee, shared ownership and NewBuy. Right to Buy and Right to Acquire also exist for council and housing association tenants. The scheme’s website states that, with the aid of Help to Buy, working individuals are able to buy a new build home valuing up to £600,000 with a five-year interest free government equity loan of 20 per cent towards the deposit. Meaning, the buyer only needs to pay a 5 per cent deposit.

Overall, what do these societal changes mean for brands and retail/leisure properties? As always, brands need to understand their target market, but with desired consumers moving away and dispersing market research needs to be re-evaluated to recognise where consumers are and their needs there. For instance, Experian UK reveals that, due to poor access to local shops and busy lives, Ruburb-dwellers are heavy users of online shopping for groceries and consumer goods and enjoy retail catalogues. Ruburb lifestyle will prove difficult for new retailers and they lose traction with this crucial middle class, out-of-town market. We witnessed an increase in convenient grocery stores, rather than larger warehouses. Understandably, this trend might continue to prosper as consumers move further away from densely populated city-centres and into smaller cities, ruburbs and commuter towns.


Taylore Hunt

Account Executive –






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