As BTR Booms, A Focus On Health And Wellbeing Will Create Lasting Communities
As soon as the build-to-rent market landed in the UK it expanded rapidly. People’s appetite for purpose-built, comfortable rental homes became evident. More recently, it has become clear that people’s expectations have evolved as the market has grown. Today, renters expect a higher-quality home, BTR developer Placefirst CEO David Mawson said.
“A BTR scheme needs to do much more than provide four walls,” he said. “There is a huge opportunity to create not just high-quality homes that people increasingly enjoy long-term, but exceptional neighbourhoods. This requires a combination of great placemaking and fuel-efficient homes.”
The sector is now well-established in the UK and 2022 has continued to be a boom year for BTR. In Q3 2022 more than £650B was invested in the sector across the UK. Despite the current rocky economic landscape, BTR is still an attractive investment for many.
As a result, the number of BTR homes either completed or under construction rose from 209,313 in Q3 2021 to 240,202 in Q3 2022. Much of this activity is outside London; there has been a 22% increase in the number of homes under construction in the regions between Q3 2021 and Q3 2022.
“BTR and specifically single-family rental is in high demand and rental homes are currently undersupplied,” Mawson said. “With financial pressures and mortgage rates rising, long-term renting is increasingly considered as an attractive alternative to homeownership. It’s an ideal option for residents who want to live in a high-quality, well-maintained home with their own front door and private garden, without homeowner stress.”
Placefirst has a growing portfolio of BTR schemes and specialises in regeneration as well as new-build properties. Currently, the developer manages more than 1,500 homes across the UK in cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool. Placefirst has an ambitious growth plan to deliver 6,500 homes across the UK.
At all of Placefirst’s schemes, resident health and wellbeing is prioritised. The developer includes a high level of green space and organises events that bring people together such as coffee mornings, book swaps and community days. Each development has a dedicated resident services manager and everything is delivered in house, from lettings through to maintenance. This allows Placefirst to deliver the best level of customer service, Mawson said.
“People want to rent in a high-quality neighbourhood where there’s a move toward wanting green spaces and communal areas, rather than just houses,” he said. “We send regular communications out via our residents’ portal with updates on events and local community engagement initiatives, which means our residents always feel part of the neighbourhood and well-informed.”
One benefit of delivering SFR neighbourhoods is the ability to provide a long-term rental home with the same rental package offered by a BTR scheme, but with more opportunity for families to scale up and down within a neighbourhood, Mawson said. Placefirst includes a mix of house sizes in its developments that are designed in-house to cater for the demographic of each individual area in which it operates.
One of Placefirst’s flagship developments is The Welsh Streets in Liverpool, an award-winning scheme where work commenced in 2016. Placefirst invested £40M to create a neighbourhood with a mix of new-build and refurbished homes, communal green spaces and private gardens. The aim was to create a real sense of community, Mawson said. Phase 6 is currently in for planning and, when complete, The Welsh Streets will have delivered SFR homes for almost 700 residents.
“SFR promises stability for each life stage and is increasingly being turned to as an alternative to homeownership,” Mawson said. “Residents can stay for the long term and move into different types and sizes of homes depending on their stage in life. At The Welsh Streets, we have seen residents upsize here as they want to stay in the same neighbourhood for the long term and grow with the community. They also love the service we provide, and the benefits of living in a professionally managed, well-maintained neighbourhood.”
As Placefirst’s SFR homes are designed specifically for rent, the life span of products is a real consideration when selecting materials, fixtures and fittings. When selecting kitchen or bathrooms, they are designed to ensure that quality lasts, Mawson said, meaning less disruption for residents and a more sustainable way of designing developments.
However, it is not enough to simply create high-quality homes, Mawson said. A successful SFR scheme will focus on placemaking that brings people together. Placefirst aims to create vibrant neighbourhoods, rather than just streets of rental houses. To get this right, a developer needs to engage the right stakeholders from the start.
“Building relationships with local residents, local authorities and organisations enables a neighbourhood to be designed around local resident requirements, and for the modern renter,” he said. “A great example of this is our Esh Winning development where we have started on-site this year. At this neighbourhood, we will deliver the largest number of bungalows in a generation, as we know that this house type is in huge demand in that area. We also learn from each of our neighbourhoods and treat each site uniquely, providing homes that people want and need, with the highest quality.”
Creating an SFR scheme also provides opportunities to create homes with high environmental credentials, Mawson said. This is becoming increasingly important not only to residents, but for the landlord in order to comply with legislation.
“New SFR developments provide opportunities for developers to build more ethically and in keeping with current environmental pressures,” he said. “We have a responsibility to provide high-quality, sustainable homes that are super energy-efficient. This includes features such as solar panels, smart meters and insulation that helps keep household bills down, which in turn contribute to the feeling of security for our residents.”
Placefirst continues to expand its portfolio, which is allowing it to hone its model further as it grows.
“We know that people are drawn to neighbourhoods where health and wellbeing is a priority, and residents should expect the highest level of customer service to support this,” Mawson said. “After all, a testament to a successful scheme is the duration of tenancies; we are finding our residents are staying with us for longer, and we are committed to continuing to improve our offering as we grow.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Placefirst and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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