BTR Opinions Build to Rent (BTR)

Britain’s housing need and the role of Build to Rent

Moda Living’s Planning Director discusses Britain’s housing need and the role of Build to Rent, which is set up to ‘Deliver, Deliver, Deliver’.

By James Blakey, Planning Director, Moda Living

The fundamentals of Britain’s planning system have been largely unchanged for almost 70 years. At the end of June, the Prime Minister announced a raft of changes to the planning system to make it “easier to build better homes where people want to live“. These are due to come into effect by September. The statement also announced that the Government would launch a “planning policy paper” this month “setting out our plan for the comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system and to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society“. The Prime Minister said the drive was to “Build, Build, Build” and surely by implication this must mean “Deliver, Deliver, Deliver” … this is what we at Moda and the Build to Rent sector are set up to achieve.

James Blakey, Planning Director, Moda Living
James Blakey, Planning Director, Moda Living

Britain needs more homes, that much is clear. However, we must not allow this to become a short-term ‘numbers game’. We must ensure that these new homes are of a quality to enable people to live happy and healthy lives, as part of an approach to creating inclusive and supportive communities. At Moda, we’re absolutely clear that the Build to Rent sector is ideally positioned to deliver such quality and inclusive support. It’s essential that Government recognises and enthusiastically endorses the potential of Build to Rent and the role that it can play in writing the next chapter of the UK’s housing history. 

There has been significant commentary over recent weeks and months on the resilient character of the Build to Rent sector – particularly as the lockdown measures ease. Coronavirus caused the housing market to slow down but interest in Build to Rent has remained positive. During lockdown we secured a 25% pre-let on our flagship 35-storey tower at Angel Gardens at the end of May, with reservations officially going live to the market end of June. Within five days we saw 121 viewings booked – pent up demand plus consumers realising the importance of where they live.  

Since the market has restarted, we’ve seen a great interest in and demand for Build to Rent homes. This is coupled with sustained and growing interest from funders who are keen to get into the Build to Rent sector with the right operator – an operator who is focused on long-term quality and establishing an operational model which has the health and wellbeing of residents at its core. This is Moda and the resilience we’ve seen over recent months and years stems from proactively catering for the changing demands of home dwellers – demands which Moda is ideally positioned to meet and crucially deliver on.

The experience of Coronavirus has taught us all about the importance of space, both inside and outside, and our health and wellbeing. At Moda, we understand that space must enhance the resident experience. Residents at each of our developments have access to a host of on-site amenities with mental and physical health and wellbeing at its heart. Facilities include gyms and wellness zones, green spaces, roof terraces, communal lounges, and workspace – all included within the rent.

Amenity rich sites are even more vital at challenging times like those we’re living through now, and we believe it’s our duty as an operator to do what we can to support and care for all those in our community. We’re certain that quality service must no longer be seen as a premium but instead as the uncompromising core of the offer. That’s why we offer deposit-free, no service charge, pet friendly renting with secure yet flexible tenancies to give residents a sense of ownership, alongside a 24-hour on-site professionally managed service.

The Government’s target of 300,000 homes per annum is ambitious but necessary. The real challenge is to ensure that quantity is not prioritised over quality; that quality construction and design is safeguarded together with quality management focused on a culture of putting the resident first. It’s vital as we move forward over the coming months that Government truly and enthusiastically promotes the potential of Build to Rent, and that it fully appreciates that we can make a meaningful and hugely valuable contribution. This is especially true in an age where people are understandably cautious about making major capital commitments and where flexibility without compromising quality is becoming increasingly important. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland is expecting the numbers of renters to eclipse the number of buyers in the near future with renters aged 35 to 44 leaping from 29% to 47% in the next nine years. We wait with hopeful anticipation for the planning policy paper to acknowledge the extraordinary potential of the Build to Rent sector. 

At Moda, it’s not just about building homes of exceptional quality; we’re curating communities that promote the health, wellbeing and happiness of our residents – this is undeniably the power of Build to Rent. We’re an operator, not a developer, and we’ll be managing these spaces and maintaining these communities ourselves long into the future. We believe in the future we’re building based on ‘Deliver, Deliver, Deliver’ – and we hope the Government will too.

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