Bristol BTR market struggling under demand, Gerald Eve finds

Research by Gerald Eve highlights the current sector-wide supply and demand imbalance is notably affecting the Bristol Build to Rent market.

Demand for Build to Rent in Bristol 'soars' | BTR News
Bristol skyline. Image credit: Brizzleboy, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Bristol has exponentially progressed as a fast-growing UK city, carrying potential for expansion supported by a fast-growing population and strong demographics for the Build to Rent market. However, a lack of development land for the construction of the schemes could hold supply in the market back and result in more sites located away from the city centre, research by property consultancy Gerald Eve has found. 

The research into the Bristol Build to Rent market shows that the city’s population is expected to rise 10% to 532,000 over the next 20 years.

When compared to other key cities in the UK, Bristol’s population growth for the typical Build to Rent age bracket of 25 to 45 ranks in third for the sharpest increase, also with growth over 10%. 

“Historically Bristol has as good track record of housing delivery. However, constraints on land supply mean that development in the city centre may be constrained in the short term. Set against continually favourable demographics, this may see developers and investors increasingly exploiting more flexible fringe locations for the delivery of large-scale Build to Rent.”

Charles Boyes, Partner, Gerald Eve

The city also remains popular among existing renters, with around one fifth of the current population in the rental sector – a proportion that is around triple the UK average.

The city’s growing student population is also expected to support the demand for Build to Rent housing.

There are around 84,000 students in Bristol and Bath universities, with around 24,000 students graduating each year.

Of these graduates, around 40% intend to remain in the city after graduation, with high quality Build to Rent schemes expected to become popular among this demographic and create a regular flow of prospective tenants.

However, despite these promising prospects, Gerald Eve’s research shows that a failure to bring forward large Build to Rent sites for development could limit growth in supply.

Currently, the number of sites developed does not meet housing targets, with site allocations falling 17,300 units short of the target of 52,000 dwellings by 2040; most of which are too small for institutional Build to Rent which becomes financially viable at 120 plus units.

“The Bristol Build to Rent market is now proven with five operational schemes and investors are keen to acquire projects. The market is underpinned by a clear undersupply of good quality rental accommodation, but the major limiting factor is the availability of larger sites.”

Bobby Barnett, Partner, Gerald Eve

Gerald Eve’s research shows that there is allocation for 34,700 dwellings based on the current assessment, but it is unclear if these will be brought forward for development.

Some revisions are expected in the new Local Plan which Bristol City Council will adopt in the Autumn of 2024.

Parcels of land across the city have been earmarked for residential development, with many of these likely to come forward.

However, there is still much uncertainty on the total dwelling allocation.

Gerald Eve identified a particular need to expand the Bristol Build to Rent market in central urban areas, where they have been identified to be suitable hosts for Build to Rent development.