Looking to the future: Build to Rent (BTR)

On 2nd May, ECF hosted a boardroom lunch at City University Club in London on the topic of the future of the Build to Rent (BTR) in the UK. Over the past few months this nascent sector has been the subject of a significant amount of column inches and our discussion got to the heart of what is driving growth and what lies in store in the coming years.

We were delighted to be joined by guest speakers, James Pargeter, Senior Director at Greystar Europe, and Jamie Parr, Residential Lead at Build Offsite. Each offered their own insight into the role BTR will play in helping meet the challenge of providing sufficient supply in the UK housing market.

Following a brief introduction of the speakers and guests, Kathy Jones, ECF Chair and the Executive Chair of Australian stakeholder engagement consultancy KJA, opened the discussion by talking about the Australian BTR experience. According to Kathy, the sector is facing multiple challenges on the other side of the world with both the real estate market and legislators having much to learn from other jurisdictions.

Following this, James Pargeter provided his analysis of the growth of the BTR sector to date and argued it mirrored a cultural shift in society. Affordability issues combined with the array of different life paths associated with modern day life in the UK provides, in his view, the right context within which an institutionally managed and professionally run rental offer can emerge.

James acknowledged the challenges faced by operators in the market which were boiled down into two categories:

  1. General misunderstanding of the sector and issues in communicating its benefits

  2. Political pressure and the desire for higher levels of affordable housing

He recognised that the UK has some work to do to create an environment in which BTR can attain the level of popularity the multi-family sector in the US has.

Our second speaker, Jamie Parr, from Build Offsite, began his remarks by talking about the supply side issues that both the offsite construction industry and the BTR sector faced. Jamie framed the issues around the ‘4 P’s’:

  1. Perception

  2. Procurement

  3. Planning

  4. Price Point

Central to Jamie’s contribution was, in his view, the need for BTR providers to take a portfolio view when looking at utilising off-site construction technique. This standardisation would, in turn, help build scale and speed within the delivery phase of a project as.

The ensuing discussion then spanned several topics ranging from the long-term sustainability of the sector, through to the existing internal configurations used by BTR providers within their buildings, and whether a need does exist for shared amenity spaces such as lounges and gyms.

The role of policy makers at the national and regional level in helping the sector grow was covered at length and a number of attendees mentioned the need for a programme of education for decision makers at a local level, when it comes to the key benefits of BTR schemes delivered across the country.

As we look to the future, ECF will be playing close attention to the development of the BTR sector and publishing research on local stakeholder perceptions of it in Autumn 2019.

Zac Slater