• Generation Rent: The build to rent boom

Generation Rent: Liverpool’s build to rent boom

Generation Rent: Liverpool’s build to rent boom

Liverpool’s rental sector special

Words by Christine Toner

It’s the tenure that’s seemingly taking over the nation. Across the UK purpose-built rental accommodation is popping up regularly and the trend shows no sign of stopping.

Legal & General Group recently released plans to create a purpose-built PRS (private rented sector) site in Bath, comprising 171 apartments, 126 car parking spaces and 17,000 sq ft of retail space.

In Birmingham, Camborne Land Investments has revealed plans to develop a £100 million, 500-apartment project called Kent Street Baths. And in Manchester work is set to begin on Moda Living’s 466-apartment block scheme.

Here in Liverpool, of course, the trend can also be seen. Just last month Anwyl’s 366-home development in the Pall Mall area of Liverpool was given the green light.

But while, traditionally, purpose-built rental schemes have consisted of apartments, largely based in the city centre and surrounding areas, in recent years we’ve started to see more housing developments created specifically for the rental market.

What is build to rent?

Build to rent simply describes properties which are developed with the sole aim of being marketed as rental homes. They’re not for sale to owner occupiers.

Why is it grabbing the headlines at the moment?

Primarily for two reasons. Firstly, there is so much build to rent accommodation being developed across the country it’s hard to ignore it and, secondly, the sector has received the backing of the government.

As the UK-wide housing crisis continues, it’s clear a lack of housing is at the centre of the problem. But it’s not just homes to buy that we’re lacking, it’s homes to rent too. Indeed, according to the latest English Housing Survey there are now almost one million more families in the rental sector than there were 10 years ago. And the government is starting to recognise the need for a successful and safe rental market with good quality houses.

Announcing the government’s Housing White Paper in February, communities secretary Sajid Javid revealed plans to improve safeguards in the private rented sector and “work with the rental sector to promote three-year tenancy agreements, giving families the security that they need to put down their roots in a community”.

The government also called for a consultation on what needs to be done to “support more build to rent developments”. This, said the communities secretary, would include changing the National Planning Policy Framework “to make it easier for build to rent developers to offer affordable private rental homes instead of other types of affordable housing”.

That consultation is now underway and will close on 1 May.

Developers looking to build such schemes can access the £1 billion build to rent fund. The fund is a debt guarantee scheme, backed by the government, which aims to encourage developers to build more homes for rent. Since its creation in 2013 the government has invested over £500m in build to let developments.

What are the benefits of renting a build to rent home?

Perhaps the biggest pull factor is that the properties are newly built and you’re likely to be the first person to live in them. This can be a big draw for many renters. Tenants are able to benefit from the sort of quality and features that would usually only be afforded to buyers.

Quality is often cited as a problem in the rental sector – with initiatives like Liverpool’s landlord licensing scheme introduced to ensure landlords meet minimum standards. Renting a new build means tenants can avoid problems associated with old and tired housing.

Location can also be a plus. Often build to rent developments are found in areas that the tenants would be unable to buy in, thus allowing them to enjoy living in a sought-after part of the city – and in good quality accommodation – even if they’re unable to get onto the housing ladder.

What’s next for the sector in the city?

It’s set to flourish even more. While PRS apartment developments continue to get planning permission across the city, a number of new housing developments are also on the cards.

Sigma Capital has already begun working with developers including Countryside to offer newly built homes for private rent in the Liverpool City Region.

Catch up on previous articles in our Generation Rent series:

Generation Rent #1: A testing time for tenants

Generation Rent #2: Liverpool’s changing buy-to-let landscape

About Author: Christine Toner