Q&A with HBD’s Adam Brady

BTR News spoke with HBD’s Adam Brady about the developer’s plans to grow its urban regeneration pipeline and its Build to Rent ambitions for 2024 and beyond.

Adam Brady, Executive Director and Head of Urban Regeneration at HBD | BTR News
Adam Brady, Executive Director and Head of Urban Regeneration at HBD.

Adam Brady is Executive Director and Head of Urban Regeneration at HBD, part of Henry Boot. We spoke to Adam about its focus on Build to Rent as it grows its £1.26bn development pipeline and the importance of partnership in delivering transformational projects like Kampus, its £250m mixed-use scheme in Manchester City Centre. We also touch on the big trends shaping the Build to Rent market and what we can expect to see as the ‘amenity war’ peaks.

HBD’s first foray into Build to Rent was in Manchester, with Kampus – what’s next?

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with Kampus; we’ve created a brand-new neighbourhood in Manchester City Centre, with a thriving community. We’re very much exploring new Build to Rent opportunities as we build our development pipeline, focusing on the ‘Big Six’ cities. Rising build costs and inflation have created a challenging environment for developers and capital investment has fallen, impacting values. However, it’s just one moment in time and the viability gap will close – Build to Rent remains an attractive product underpinned by strong occupier demand characteristics.

HBD is known for its focus on partnerships; do you expect to see more Build to Rent schemes being delivered via joint ventures, particularly given the viability challenges impacting progress?

A partnership approach is beneficial for many reasons; however, I think we’re likely to see more public private partnerships and projects with investor partners rather than developers joining forces.

When the market is broken, government can also play a key role in keeping supply for residential coming through the system. The demand for Build to Rent is growing quickly, and we need to provide enough housing – particularly as Buy to Let investors continue exiting the market. The key is providing mixed tenure, from the top-end Build to Rent products all the way through; we need to be providing great homes for everyone.

A recent survey revealed that there’s around £8.1bn ready to invest in Build to Rent in 2024 – will we see more of that capital unlocked this year?

There’s cautious optimism that we’ll see more investment injected into Build to Rent this year; the viability gap will close as inflation continues to fall and the BoE monetary policy eases. However, there are other elements impacting development appetite which must also be tackled – we need planning security and certainty that the government policy environment will not change. Any kernel of uncertainty is the enemy of business and development.

The residential sector is a bright star in the deal world – developers are doing all they can to tap into investment and capital will begin to flow once it’s clear that the trajectory is moving in the right direction.

Will we continue to see growth in Single-Family Housing (SFH) as the Build to Rent sector matures?

I believe we’ll see meaningful growth across SFH in the coming years, which will create exciting new opportunities in sought-after suburban locations. The key to solving the housing crisis isn’t to build more homes on green fields, but to invest in the intensification of urban areas. Single-family housing is an important part of the nascent market and is expected to become much larger. I think we can expect to see some interesting players and schemes emerging this year within the SFH space.

Amenities have been a key differentiator for Build to Rent developments; might we see any fresh new ideas?

The market is maturing very quickly, leading to a general upping of standards across the development industry and the amenity war is heating up. Amenity and service levels are getting better and better and will keep going.

The HBD response is, if we’re going to do it, we’ll do it well, making sure the offer is appropriate for the location and our customers. We’re close to PC on our £32m Setl residential scheme in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, which demonstrates this approach – while it isn’t Build to Rent, we have created fantastic hotel-style amenities, including a wellness studio, co-working lounge and a private sixth floor roof terrace. It will be interesting to see how the amenity offer evolves in the coming years; I don’t think the amenity war has peaked just yet.