Highlights: Movers & Shakers BTR Interim Forum 2023

2023 marked the 9th year of the Build to Rent Interim Forum organised by Movers & Shakers. We highlight the key discussion points.

The Movers & Shakers Interim BTR Forum 2023 | BTR News
The Movers & Shakers Interim BTR Forum 2023.

The Movers & Shakers Interim Build to Rent Forum 2023 – ‘Build to Rent and Housing Policy – Finding the Right Balance’ was held last week in Canary Wharf. The forum featured insightful presentations from Dr Elizabeth Rapoport from Homes England and Sandra Jones from Dataloft, as well as three excellent panel discussions from an array of senior names in the industry.

With opening remarks from Movers & Shakers’ Managing Director Leigh Natasha Salter, the event was moderated by Movers & Shakers Chairman David Jennings and was hosted by Vertus. The forum encouraged discussion around some of the obstacles that the industry faces, with housing policy being the most prominent.

‘Can Build to Rent and the private rented sector thrive alongside housing policy in the UK?’ This was a prominent discussion point during the Movers & Shakers forum, without a clear resolution in sight.

The Build to Rent sector continues to grow. £6bn has been invested into the sector alone; with the requirement for purpose-built housing increasing year-on-year. With important discussions continuing to take place, we put together some of the key highlights discussed during this forum.

The forum experienced a positive turn-out.

Key highlights

Kicking off the forum, Dr Elizabeth Rapoport presented the recent findings and research by Homes England. According to Elizabeth, there is a strong correlation between good quality homes and the community that occupies them. 

Elizabeth established that there is a clear link between health, wellbeing, happiness and housing. Referring to Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, Elizabeth reported that good quality homes and community are essential to renters’ living experience and wellbeing – and should be an integral factor that all housing providers should be focussed and following through on.

Representing Dataloft, Sandra Jones discussed the demographics that benefit from Build to Rent, and those who do not. As a small but mighty fraction of the private-rented sector, Build to Rent takes up 2% of the market across the UK, and 4% in London.

When examining the demographics that Build to Rent attracts, Dataloft discovered that residents spend a lower proportion of their income on rent when renting within in a high-earning group or in a couple.

Sandra addressed affordability, expressing that costs associated with renting a Build to Rent apartment for a single person compared to sharers means that for those who are higher earners, the rent costs are not ‘more affordable’, but they spend a lower ratio of income on their rent.

Sandra concluded that Build to Rent is not yet as quantifiable as the private-rented sector and requires more data and insight.

Panel discussions.

During panel discussions, an emphasis was placed on the importance of social value within the sector. Community should be at the heart of the Build to Rent sector, which is still learning continuously. The importance of creating a shared agenda between local governments and the sector was strongly allured to, with both the risks and opportunities that Build to Rent has to offer being presented to investors, developers and policy makers alike. Key points discussed across the three panel discussions included:

  • There is still a lot to learn within this emerging sector – operators are always learning; there isn’t a one size fits all. We should also let people add their own value.
  • Society and the local area go hand-in-hand; they are interchangeable to government.
  • 49% of local authorities are now involved in the Build to Rent sector.
  • Build to Rent should revolve around its residents. Creating meaningful events and amenities encourages residents to use the spaces that there are to offer, and therefore helps nurture a sense of community.
  • ESG should not just be a ‘tick-box’; there is an increasing overlay between the ‘E’ and the ‘S’. A key point mentioned was that the ‘S’ will take a different shape in five years’ time as the industry evolves.
  • There is a supply and demand imbalance – and a “chronic” shortage of social housing. There needs to be a long-term resolution to this, with suggestions that all housing could be under a National Registration System. It was noted that there is value in Build to Rent taking pressure off of local housing.
  • From a local authority’s perspective, planning isn’t the problem, but it could be improved. A prominent discussion point was that there should be trust between local authorities and the Build to Rent sector, who should work together towards a shared vision.
  • Discussions pointed out if there needs to be a change to the National Housing Policy with the suggestion that we need a new system.
  • A representative from a local authority believes that London requires “aspiring working class and not gentrification” to build the communities people want to live in.
  • There is a higher risk for reputationally conscious investors despite the opportunities for growth that Build to Rent has to offer.
  • The sector was identified as a diversifier.
  • Discussions highlighted the importance of taking a holistic approach to housing and policy.

Speakers at the forum included Homes England’s Dr Elizabeth Rapoport, Dataloft’s Sandra Jones, Greystar’s Bella Peacock, Lewisham Council’s Rhona Brown, Way of Life’s Sowgol Zarinchang, Get Living’s Rick de Blaby, British Property Federation’s Ian Fletcher, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s Cllr Darren Rodwell, Cortland’s Tracey Hartley, Vertus’ Alastair Mullens, Greystar’s Harry Downes, Quintain’s James Saunders, and Homes England’s Jennifer Murray. Moderators included Godwin Developments’ Lesley Roberts, GAA’s James Pargeter, and JLL’s Simon Scott.