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Industry must unite over build to rent

Britain’s build-to-rent sector is starting to motor. 

Completions are up and the number of homes on site or going through the planning system, both in London and elsewhere, is really starting to rocket.

In London there are now 98 schemes under construction, of which 72 started last year. This is fantastic news and potentially a real step forward towards helping to meet housing needs.

We must now capitalise on the progress made to date. By doing this we can ensure the sector continues to grow over the next year and becomes recognised as a mature and long-term part of our future housing market provision.

We need to give the whole market – from institutional investors to planning authorities to those who will actually live in the new accommodation – confidence we can deliver on our promises.

We need to remove more uncertainties, most notably with regard to planning policy and expectations.

On message

To do this, we need to establish a clear voice for the sector, demonstrate a united vision and communicate a powerful sense of who and what we are.

“Without clarity and understanding, there is a danger that the worst experience will be seen as the norm”

This needs to include clear messages about the sector’s housing management standards, length of tenancy period and a strong commitment to a positive renter experience.

Without this clarity and understanding, there is a danger that the worst experience will be seen as the norm.

Institutional landlords with a clear commitment to their homes and their tenants with a promise of long-term stability and accountable behaviour should be seen as a key benefit of build to rent.

To make sure that message lands, we are going to have to speak with a unified voice – and quickly.

Filling gaps

Other changes are happening in the housing market that further emphasise the need and value of the build-to-rent sector.

As the latest tax changes come into play this year, there is every chance existing buy-to-rent properties will come back on the market as homes for first and second-time buyers. Build to rent can help plug that gap and offer a better long-term alternative.

“The sector must ensure consistency of message and the delivery of high standards of product and performance”

This also applies to future investment prospects. Action needs to be taken to make the build-to-rent sector an attractive place for individual as well as corporate investors.

The sector must ensure consistency of message and the delivery of high standards of product and performance.

It also needs to work with government to develop attractive options for private investors and to tackle delivery challenges, most notably with regard to planning.

If we can get this right it will benefit all of us and help sustain a whole new construction pipeline. Disparate voices and views will not work.

Capita will be working hard over the next few months to help pull this all together. I urge everyone else to join us. It needs to be a team effort.

Richard McCarthy is executive director of local government, health and property at Capita

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