In London, build-to-rent developments are fairly common and offer an affordable housing option for those that cannot afford to buy their own homes. Yet while it is an established practice and effective way to create more affordable housing many councils in other parts of the country have been slow to adopt it. Even more concerning is that while the issue of affordable housing is often raised, Build-to-rent schemes aren’t even featured in council planning as a possible solution.
Government driving change
The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 creates provision to ensure that local councils actively plan for build-to-rent developments in areas where a need for affordable housing has been identified. Additionally government has indicated its intention to help support build-to-rent developments through a white paper targeted at developers. However, it appears this information has done little to change the focus of local councils in terms of their planning provisions.
Local councils slow to get on board
Less than half of the local London councils make any reference of build-to-rent development schemes in their emerging planning policy. There seems to be a distinct hesitancy to drive these types of developments despite there being a clear need for affordable housing and keen interest from investors willing to finance these types of developments.
When will things change?
The good news is that in the latter part of 2017 the Draft London Plan was published. The document outlines the intention to fast-track build-to-rent developments and give special dispensation so that this can be achieved. This opens up opportunities for housing construction companies in the sector to bid for build-to-rent development contracts.
A number of areas have already been earmarked as being ideal for development including Ealing and Hillingdon in the west and Greenwich and Havering to the east. This will be supported by the opening of the Elizabeth line providing transport to commuters.
An important part of getting build-to-rent projects off the ground is to change public perception. Traditionally rented communities are viewed as problematic as they often house poorer tenants who bring with them social issues. However, this is not always the case and with local populations expanding, and property prices becoming unaffordable for many, there is a clear need to create more affordable housing.
The question remains, will these combined efforts be enough to get build-to-rent developments off the ground in 2018?