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Defending the Build to Rent fund

No one doubts Britain is in the middle of a housing crisis.

For decade after decade we have failed to build homes in the numbers needed.

Yet until recently, few politicians would accept the need for anything other than homes for sale or affordable housing.

But in the last few years there has been a realisation that Britain’s renters need catering for too.

Nine million people now rent in this country and most only expect this number to grow.

“The quality of accommodation and service on offer to Britain’s renters varies dramatically”

Yet sadly, the quality of accommodation and service on offer to Britain’s renters varies dramatically.

Recognising this, the coalition government launched the Build to Rent fund, which offered £1bn to help support the delivery of 10,000 new homes designed specifically for rent.

The idea was to create an institutionally backed, professionally managed private rented sector, similar to the successful, decades-old North American multifamily sector.

Essential Living has benefited, with money from the fund helping finance our schemes in Archway and Three Colts Lane.

News that the fund is likely to deliver less than half the homes promised has been greeted with dismay and held by some as a sign of the fund’s failure.

But far from failing, the fund has helped kick start a rental revolution.

The BPF identified £30bn of investment ready and waiting to pour into the rental market – if the conditions are right.

One key condition is political support, and the Build to Rent fund’s launch, and subsequent extension by the present Conservative government, were clear signs the government was backing the sector for the long haul.

“The BPF identified £30bn of investment ready and waiting to pour into the rental market”

As a result, there are 16,000 Build to Rent units in the pipeline in London alone according to Molior.

Thousands more are coming through in the rest of the country, with Manchester also playing a leading role.

Every week, yet another institution, developer, housebuilder or housing association announces they are moving into Build to Rent.

So while the fund itself may only have directly helped with the delivery of 4,000 new homes, it has indirectly helped with thousands more.

The fact the scheme is only due to deliver 4,000 new homes directly is in part thanks to the availability of private finance willing to back Build to Rent schemes.

But more damningly, it is a reflection of failures in our planning system than the fund itself, with many schemes being held back by a flawed and complicated process.

By fixing planning, the government can start to fix the housing crisis.

Martin Bellinger is chief operating officer at Essential Living

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