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Has the pandemic made build to rent programmes more popular?

By Harry Brown
04 February 2021

By Harry Brown

The UK has always prioritised home ownership over renting. However, what the pandemic has helped to show is that people are prioritising different things in their home: namely flexibility, easy access to amenities, and choices over what to do with their property and time.

Unlike the UK, our European friends have long favoured a rental model. For these societies, owning a home is not the be all and end all. With strict regulation and top-down enforcement to aid rental unions and associations, renting remains not just feasible, but desirable.

Take the Dutch model as an example: research shows you can rent a property double the size of that in the UK, for 30% of the price.

The dream of home ownership alludes many, with 75% of 18–35-year-olds in employment not owning their own home - but is it even all it is cracked up to be? Perhaps a more age specific approach is required to ensure the lifestyle benefit and choices are being met for each demographic – and those who actively choose not to buy because of the benefits to be had in renting.

The conditions born out of pandemic, namely the desire for strong communal ties and ease of access to lifestyle amenities has hastened the yearning for many to seek what is on offer from the rental market, and in particular Build to Rent (BTR) properties.

Indeed, the Home Owners Alliance  define BTR as ‘new build apartments that have been built specifically for renters, they have to include at least 50 homes, they are owned and managed by one landlord’.

BTR allows for rent to be properly regulated, provides a communal environment with shared facilities, and essentially operates as a one stop shop for all management enquiries in a brand-new home – with the knowledge that nobody has ever lived in that space before. It allows those seeking a certain lifestyle to achieve it, without making compromises on quality, space or location if buying.

With the average age of the renter rising by five years since 2017,  it suggests the UK is changing its attitude to renting, and with it, the quality of product. Concierge services, pets-allowed policies, on site amenities like gyms and cinema rooms, all in central locations are all steps in the right direction and will appeal to that late twenty, early thirty demographic who are increasingly warming to the idea of pushing back buying for a few years.

It will be interesting to see how the BTR market fares as we come out of the pandemic’s clutches, but there is certainly an increased appetite for rental which is not likely to dwindle overnight. People want flexibility, the lifestyle on offer and importantly the choice of movement- and this is where BTR can come into its own.