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Private rental ‘could unlock consented developments’

Westminster City Council has urged developers to build out schemes for private rental instead of landbanking and called for new powers for councils to prevent the practice.

The council’s cabinet member for housing Jonathan Glanz called on developers to explore pre-selling and pre-letting projects to private rental investors, to mitigate risk, boost developer returns and help councils to enhance their community infrastructure.

“There are many sites in London and this is where the private rented sector can ensure these developments are viable,” he told Construction News.

“People like to phase developments – we need housing now, so communities become viable early rather than by drip feed.”

He added that there was appetite among institutional investors who were “ready, willing and able to back” such schemes, and that they could kick-start local community, school and infrastructure projects.

Mr Glanz told a roundtable hosted by Grainger that developing for private rent would enable developers to mitigate risk by getting rid of sites faster, while avoiding flooding the market and thus lowering their prices.

Mr Glanz also said he would like to see compulsory purchase options, or positive obligations to get developers to start on site at a given date.

This, he said, was in response to issues such as that with the Chelsea Barracks – the controversial Qatari Diar scheme for 450 luxury homes put under review earlier this year, which he said the council “would love to see developed”.

“You get consent and people landbank it; what we don’t have is an effective way of making those things happen,” he said.

Mr Glanz sits on the Single Property Unit with deputy mayor Richard Blakeway and has given evidence to a parliamentary select committee on the private rented sector.

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