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Much done but more to do: where are we now with Build to Rent?

We recently held the third event in our industry leading Building Up campaign, in partnership with London First, on the topic of Build to Rent. The event focused on the growth and challenges seen within the Build to Rent sector.

There has been significant growth in the Build to Rent (BTR) market in the last decade, with many returning to renting – and not just younger professional. Jacqui Daly (Savills) pointed out even though renting has been a key part of the British economy for decades, renting figures a century ago were exponentially higher than they are now. This is due to a number of factors, such as a post war boom in housing (including social housing and support) and a higher societal pressure on the status of buying a house.

The opportunity and optimism that Build to Rent is presenting is clear – our audience poll reported 90% of attendees are optimistic or very optimistic about the growth of the UK BTR market.

There are many challenges emerging: two thirds of our audience believe that the introduction of rent controls is the biggest threat to UK BTR growth. Charles Russell Speechlys planning partner, Claire Fallows, noted that together with rent controls, individual councils and governing bodies having different policies and regulations is hindering developers as procedures are unclear which inevitably leads to delays. This was backed up by our audience, 50% of whom believe that simple changes to planning policy would accelerate UK BTR growth. What those changes could be, remains a challenge in itself. One of the most successful regions for BTR is the USA, with some arguing the UK should simply copy US BTR models. However the U.S. market is much further ahead than the UK, including the presence of investors and partners on a scale the UK is currently lacking. David Woodward (GAA) did note that many of the models which have worked in the U.S., can be modified to suit the UK.

In a world of social media, ratings and customer service, brand and how a company presents themselves was key theme throughout the night. Would having amenities including gyms, coffee shops, pools etc. be an essential element In ‘winning’ over renters and ensuring customers stayed loyal to brands? All our panellists agreed that while these are important elements in getting renters through the door, it is the overall service provided that ensures renters remain with the landlord, whether they stay in the same location or move to a different area. There are always essentials that our panellists all agreed they look for in a BTR scheme, including an area for socialising and meeting, a gym or exercise area and a form of transport (including access to major roads and train stations).

This was our third event in our highly successful Building Up series, with introductions from Jonathan Seager (London First), followed by a presentation by Jacqui Daly (Savills) on the current Build to Rent climate, and a panel discussion. Our expert panel consisted of Jacqui Daly (Savills), Jon Di-Stefano (Telford Homes), Claire Fallows (Charles Russell Speechlys), Helen Gordon (Grainger) & David Woodward (GAA).

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