Can Build to Rent help to solve the housing crisis?

There is growing evidence that there is consumer demand for BTR across the household spectrum
Flats with colourful balconies. Moby Motion CC0 Public Domain

If current trends continue, the Build to Rent (BTR) sector could expand to produce up to 250,000 new homes by 2030, suggests a new report by Savills and LSE London, published by the British Property Federation.

The report, Unlocking the Benefits and Potential of Build to Rent, shows that there has been a massive increase in the numbers of purpose built market homes for rent in the development pipeline over the last couple of years and that far more are planned. These developments are mainly in London, although the markets in other major cities are also beginning to take off.

The report was published to coincide with the Housing White Paper, which stressed the need for a well operating private rented sector and for investment in purpose- built rental homes for all types of household.

Importantly BTR can make use of difficult sites in inner urban areas – speeding up development on large sites and providing homes for younger working households who are currently facing major challenges in finding adequate rented housing. It is also central to creating vibrant communities far more quickly than can be achieved if the emphasis is on owner-occupation.

The report makes a number of recommendations about how to help BTR to make a much larger contribution to alleviating the housing shortage. Most importantly the needs of younger and more mobile households should be better reflected in the design of new developments. Equally there needs to be greater flexibility in planning to ensure affordable rented homes are provided side by side with market rented housing.

Professor Christine Whitehead, Emeritus Professor of Housing Economics at LSE and one of the contributors to the report, said: “There is growing evidence that there is consumer demand for BTR across the household spectrum - but especially among younger professional households. Most importantly BTR speeds up development using private finance without direct government subsidy so is a cost effective way of supporting a step-change in housing supply".

Unlocking the Benefits and Potential of Build to Rent is the first study to quantify the scale of BTR delivery across the country and to identify the nature of schemes in terms of their planning status, scale and delivery approach. It seeks to understand the sector’s progress, potential and make policy recommendations to support its growth.