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The BTR Amenity Arms Race Is Over, Says Macquarie JV As It Rewrites The Playbook

The Camp Hill Gardens scheme, Digbeth

Macquarie Group’s £1B UK build-to-rent venture will target a nationwide 2,000-home portfolio within the next 12 to 18 months — but will turn its back on the amenity arms race.

Martin Bellinger, the former Essential Living boss who has formed Goodstone Living with backing from Macquarie, said the business will “zoom in” on the quality of homes, and will spend less time ramping up amenities.

Bellinger also insisted Goodstone would stick to an ambitious design code to ensure quality, and resist buying into consented schemes that could not be adapted to meet its needs.

The disclosure comes as Goodstone seeks modifications to the planning consent for its recently acquired debut scheme in Birmingham. The hotel element of the consented scheme it acquired from Eutopia Homes will be replaced by more apartments, taking the total to 570. Simultaneously a second fire exit route will be created. Work on-site at the Camp Hill development, Digbeth, is likely to begin in summer 2022. 

“There has been a little bit of a trend in the sector to pile on the amenities, add bells and whistles, without perhaps considering the amount of uptake of those amenities, and the maintenance and operation costs," Bellinger told Bisnow. "Which is why we’ve zoomed out. We’ve redirected our effort towards the homes. Ultimately people’s decisions will be about primarily the quality of the accommodation — quality of accommodation is front and centre. 

“The risk with adding lots of bells and whistles and new amenities is that you design and add things you, the developer, think are good, but you should really focus on what the resident wants. A better-quality home ultimately means fewer voids, higher resident retention, and that’s good for residents and investors.”

The Camp Hill Gardens scheme, Digbeth

Instead of piling on amenities, Goodstone plans to demonstrate quality of life.

“We’d like to measure wellbeing, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be measured by the quantity of yoga mats,” Bellinger said. “We’re talking to organisations who can try to articulate this and come up with standards that we can be scored against. We’re talking to the BRE about their home quality mark and that includes an element of wellness, and to some other organisations. It’s something we’re exploring because it’s something that we expect will be desired by residents.

“We’re here to provide the next generation of UK BTR, the third generation, and the objective is better homes and spaces. We’re trying to bring BTR back to the product, which is a home, a place people want to call home, a place people want to and aspire to live in, concentrating more on the home rather than engaging in an amenity arms race.”

The business will aim to create a nationwide portfolio. “The aim is to have a national business. This is not London-centric,” Bellinger said.

“The appeal of a balanced regional and London portfolio is much greater. London’s BTR sector advanced more quickly, and there’s some catching up to do in the regions, which we want to be in the thick of. It’s also important to balance the portfolio from the residents’ point of view. There’s a lot of regional mobility and so to be able to offer a Goodstone resident in Birmingham a home in Manchester if they change jobs is a good thing.”