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Government trumpets Build to Rent consultation – but industry still differs on key elements

Hta brentford build to rent for essential living

The government will undertake more work on proposals to make it easier to provide Build to Rent (BTR) homes after disagreement emerged on the details of implementation

The government yesterday (3 August) published with a flourish its response to a consultation it conducted on encouraging more BTR homes through the planning system.

Headed: ‘Industry backs Government plans to boost private rental sector’, the response from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) claimed the consultation showed there was ‘widespread support for its proposals to open up the choice of rental properties on the market to help those currently priced out’ and that the construction industry had ‘offered support for Government plans to boost the private rental sector and tackle affordability in the market’.

However, while there was widespread agreement on the principle of boosting the sector among respondents to the consultation, a number of areas of disagreement on detail were revealed.

While half of those who took part in the consultation supported the government’s proposed definition of BTR homes, a third did not.

The government said concerns raised by respondents covered issues including tenancy lengths, minimum scheme size, typologies, management and ownership, the inclusion of affordable private rent, and whether covenants (on retaining the properties in the private rented sector) should be included.

In addition, the consultation suggested that 20 per cent of homes in a scheme should be made available at 80 per cent of the market rate.

However, three quarters of those surveyed said government proposals to introduce this new category of affordable private rent could generate unintended consequences.

The Department for Communities and Local Government response response said: ‘Comments centred on the scope for negative consequences for the housing market, tenants, authorities and social housing provision in general, according to the government summary of responses.’

A majority of respondents who voiced such reservations thought that limiting affordable private rent to BTR schemes alone would mitigate the negative impacts.

Commenting on the consultation, Russell Pedley, co-founder and director of Assael Architecture, said: ‘The government’s support for a robust, professional rental sector in the UK is welcomed by the entire housing sector.

There needs to be more flexibility regarding space standards in Build to Rent housing

‘However, there needs to be more flexibility regarding space standards in Build to Rent housing, especially in urban locations.

‘As the previously published housing white paper sets out: one size does not suit all.

‘Smart design can make these spaces work and, most importantly, create affordable homes that people want to live in.’

The government response said: ‘Where any points of uncertainty have emerged, the government plans to probe the issues over the coming months, including updating our equalities analysis, to better understand concerns and to resolve them.’

The DCLG said that the consultation process would help inform any future proposals for revising the National Planning Policy Framework and associated guidance, a proposal supported by 85 per cent of respondents.


Readers' comments (2)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    Long term, BTR is a big mistake for this society. If low interest rates continue for another 5 years or more, the young will not be able to save to put a deposit down on their own home. Bad enough just now in many parts of the country, and becoming impossible in London (apart from maybe shared ownership gimmicks).
    If the next generation is turned into a nation of renters, there will be no middle class. If you only have a working class and a rentier elite, I guess that spells trouble for everyone.

    You can see it already, the banking, insurance and pensions industries are pouring their money into residential property.

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  • For Mackenzie Architects: Among those 'pouring their money into residential property' are overseas investors who view our housing as a safe haven - and who, in so doing, are contributing to the property values inflation that's become so damaging.
    But presumably the fear of losing this source of housing finance (together, possibly, with self-interest) acts to discourage our government from initiating vigorous reform to stop the abuse of housing as an internationally traded commodity - one that might even be intentionally left untenanted.

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