By Lesley Roberts, Partner at Allsop
As the President of the UK Apartment Association (UKAA), the annual UKAA Build to Rent Fayre is always an exciting event. This year was particularly auspicious, however – not least because the recent Covid measured were yet to be announced, allowing us to network, attend the sessions, and catch up with friends in the industry without restrictions.
More importantly, however, the 2021 Fayre was a demonstration of what sets the Build to Rent market apart: the sector’s open commitment to sharing knowledge and expertise. Our industry is evolving quickly, and its noted resilience has attracted lenders and investors in their droves. Despite this, the fierce one-upmanship evident within other real estate markets is not a prominent feature within the Build to Rent B2B community.
Instead, this evolving market is built on shared knowledge and expertise, with operators, suppliers and professional advisors collaborating across the sector to ensure it develops in the best possible way. This was highlighted in the keynote speech delivered by Sophie Hine, Innovation Lead for BTR at John Lewis & Partners, who noted the cooperation and comradery that characterise the sector.
This collaborative approach was apparent throughout the conference. For instance, the Fayre saw the launch of hereSAY – a mystery shopping and benchmarking service for the Build to Rent sector created by SAY Property. The tool, presented by SAY Property’s Debra Yudolph and Esme Webb, will be extremely beneficial for the market, providing in-depth insight into the quality of Build to Rent developments, including customer service and amenity offerings.
Likewise, we saw the road-testing of the UKAA Best Practice Guide; developed and kept up to date by those operating in the sector, the content will help the Build to Rent market to evolve and mature through shared experience and information.
The sector’s commitment to knowledge-sharing also helps to rewrite some of the more pervasive misconceptions about the Build to Rent product. During the session entitled ‘Who Lives in Build to Rent – Launch of Version 2’, we heard the key findings from the recent eponymous research paper, which demonstrated that Build to Rent is not an exclusively luxury product – a belief still held by many in government.
In its second year, the ‘Who Lives in Build-to-Rent?’ report from the UKAA, the British Property Federation (BPF), Dataloft and London First, analysed 89 schemes in England totalling over 20,000 residents in over 15,000 homes. The urban component of the data, constituting 15,887 residents and 12,404 homes across 49 schemes was benchmarked with tenants in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), finding that Build to Rent has a similar resident profile across income, profession, age and affordability.
This kind of data sharing is key to understanding the whole rental ecosystem. We now know that Build to Rent schemes are home to a diverse mix of residents, making a crucial contribution to housing need in both urban and suburban areas. In many cases, the Build to Rent sector is providing options for renters who already live in PRS homes.
Similarly, the session ‘The Living Wage – A discussion about the importance of The Living Wage and the Build to Rent Sector’ demonstrated that Build to Rent is not just a high-end product. Though known for its top-level service offering, Build to Rent can also provide housing that is affordable for everyone. These sessions were important for the sector, allowing owners/operators to deliver product at a price point appropriate for all customers.
The conference was a full stop at the end of an exciting year. As Build to Rent continues to evolve, we are – through events like the UKAA Build to Rent Fayre – addressing some of the fallacies surrounding the Build to Rent product and customer. Meanwhile, with so many important topics discussed, and so much information shared, we can approach 2022 knowing that the Build to Rent sector will continue to go from strength to strength.