‘There have been many macro shifts in how we live and work in recent years, but one constant is the need for a roof over our heads,’ says Jill Ju, CEO and founder of True North Management, a recently launched residential company, as she reflects on current investor interest in the living segment.
‘Real estate provides spaces for people, and use cases change over time. But everyone needs a home to be restful and flourish in their own way,’ Ju adds.
Ju created True North in 2021, drawing on her many years of experience in the living sector. Formerly investment director at Greystar and chief investment officer at The Collective, she has a significant track record in creating assets, brands and investment vehicles across PBSA, BTR and co-living sectors.
Individual and communal
‘I've had the chance to see and contribute to the evolution of living asset types during my career, across PBSA, BTR and co-living. This has inspired me to explore how different projects can positively impact users' lives and make a real difference in our society,’ she notes.
Ju settled on a co-living concept for the launch of her own business, but is quick to underline that she sees this as an accommodation type with broad potential. ‘There is an ongoing discussion about what co-living actually is. We don’t narrowly define it, but regard it as an asset type where people can have a private space in which to live, but also access to a range of amenities and communal spaces where they can fulfil needs as diverse as cooking a nice meal, working, or hanging out with friends.
'It’s about transforming typical ways of living and offering something new and better suited to today’s customer needs. We’ve seen changing appetite from young people around the challenges of putting together a flat share, and even couples now want more access to a supportive community. There’s also a sense that cities can be quite lonely places in which to live and it’s not always easy to make friends or work out where you belong.’
The business is backed by FEOS, led by real estate veteran Ingo Holz, co-founder of industrial asset and investment management company BEOS, whom Ju met at MIPIM five years ago. 'Dr Holz has been an invaluable asset to True North, providing both professional expertise and financial support,’ Ju notes. ‘Although he is based in Berlin, he visits London about once a month to share his expertise with our operations.’ The team is also advised by Marcus Hale, former pan-European development director at Patrizia.
Debut London asset
True North recently launched its first London asset, Holm Wimbledon Park, which features 86 studios and communal spaces to encourage both focused work and social interaction. Residents can enjoy amenities such as indoor/outdoor lounges, chef’s kitchens, private dining room, co-working spaces, a communal garden and a community events calendar.
‘We’ve already set up the residents’ association and a gardening club, planted a wildflower meadow and created bug hotels,’ Ju enthuses. The asset is named after a mature Holm oak tree which stands in its extensive grounds. ‘It’s quiet and peaceful and doesn’t feel like the city, even though it’s only a five-minute walk from the tube,’ she says.
The business is now planning to deliver 1,500 units in London over the next three years, through a mix of forward purchases and its own development programme. ‘We’re prepared to adapt and grow in a changing landscape. London is our starting point as we know the value of having a clear focus,’ she says. ‘We are actively working on different sites around the capital at the moment, some of which are similar in scope to Holm, and some of which are even more ambitious.
‘Eventually we would like to grow across Europe, and due to our contacts and previous experience Germany would be the next natural market for us. Our investor base is there. However, there are lots of other places that could be interesting. We’re also eyeing other potential markets like Dublin due to its supply-demand imbalance. We’re ready to evaluate any European city that crosses our radar. But for now, we’re excited about the potential for co-living in London and can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.’