Build to rent just seems to be getting bigger and bigger – both in terms of its reach across the UK housing market and its popularity.

The British Property Federation (BPF) this week revealed that construction began on more than 13,500 build to rent homes in regional cities last year. That’s not just double, but triple, the amount of provision in London (where the sector first started).

The Federation’s Ian Fletcher acknowledged the huge rise of the sector in northern towns and cities, acknowledging that it went hand-in-hand with regeneration initiatives.

“[Build to rent] is not just about increasing housing provision, it is also a major economic driver,” he said. “It helps attract and retain skilled workers, serving as a catalyst for urban regeneration.

“The strong growth of the BTR sector across the regions will support the government’s levelling up initiative and help revitalise town and city centres.”

At the same time, researchers and upmarket estate agents Savills are convinced the build to rent sector will double within the next few years. They are confident of their prediction because they’ve already seen many local authorities push through planning consent for build to rent developments, in the knowledge their own housing stock is diminishing or already diminished.

Research from estate agency Ascend Properties revealed that planning permission requests for build-to-rent units were up by as much as 52% during 2020 – the most intense period of the pandemic.

Even the middle-aged are going for Build to Rent

The demand is there too. Many young professions can’t afford to become homeowners these days, while the middle-aged like the flexibility and lack of maintenance etc responsibility that renting can bring. Understandably, they also enjoy the inbuilt benefits of build to rent complexes, such as gyms, pools, work spaces and cinema rooms. Some even come with concierges and domestic cleaning and laundry facilities.

Insurer Admiral has produced figures that show there are almost twice as many people in the UK looking to rent one of these new BTR properties, as there is accommodation. That increase to one in every ten individuals in Salford. 

‘Zoom room’ and retro caravan perks

One new build to rent facility on Liverpool’s quayside even has its own ‘zoom room’. Those renting at the former HMRC office block now redesigned and renamed The Keel, can look their best on-screen thanks to the room’s tinted windows.

In another build to rent development in north west London renters can choose to work from a retro camper van if they so wish. It’s a perk, along with the cinema room, of paying the £1,770 a month rent, plus utility bill of around £200, also monthly.

BPF figures show there are 26 per cent more build to rent units across the UK than in 2020. Property advisers CBRE calculated that a record £4.1bn was invested in the sector last year. Another 141,215 build to rent developments are currently being built, or are about to be. Cities which have seen the biggest jump in build to rent provision are Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.