ARL demonstrates value of BTR Study Tours for local authorities

The Association for Rental Living (ARL) Leeds Study Tour that took place on 22nd May 2024 has demonstrated how valuable such events are in growing an understanding of the Build to Rent (BTR) sector with local authorities.  

Held during, and in collaboration with, the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF), the Study Tour included site visits to Dandara Living’s Leodis Square and Native Residential’s The Junction in Leeds. It was followed by a roundtable event at which local authority official had the chance to discuss their BTR experiences and challenges directly with operators and investors.

The Study Tour facilitated a growing understanding on both sides of the table, with a frank and positive exchange of views and experiences helping build relationships and trust between those who can leverage the land for BTR and those who can implement the schemes. Many local authority colleagues were keen to express that while they are very open to the idea of BTR – and interested in delivering it as a core component of their housing portfolio – they often lack insight into who to talk to and how to take things forward.

What quickly became clear was the need to build trust between the private and public sectors if BTR is to achieve its full potential. Local authorities need the support of the BTR sector in growing their knowledge and taking a partnership approach to new schemes.

Discussions also focused on the value of good operators in ensuring the success of BTR schemes. Attentive relationship building will furnish local authority teams with the confidence to ask funders and developers who their BTR operators are, and the knowledge of how the response will likely impact a project’s long-term success.

Another valuable piece of information derived from the Leeds Study Tour was the need for consistency of terminology. A ‘key worker’ can be many different things in different contexts, while ‘affordable’ has a whole host of different meanings. If BTR funders and operators are to work more closely with local government, there will be a need to bring consistency to such terms to iron out confusion and ensure goals are aligned.

While discussing challenges was valuable, so was recognising the scale of opportunity that exists. There is clear potential for local authorities with land to establish joint ventures with BTR investors and developers, making sites more viable for development. A BTR procurement framework for local government would be essential for enabling such an approach.

It was gratifying to see the extent of local authorities’ appetite for Build to Rent schemes and help grow colleagues’ understanding of the value that BTR can deliver. The Leeds Study Tour was a resounding success in terms of sharing knowledge and experiences. It was also a reminder of how overworked many local government officials are. This highlighted the need for the BTR sector to step up and work proactively at building relationships, ensuring BTR can be a smoothly implemented solution to local housing needs.Brendan Geraghty, CEO, ARL

The ARL plans to run several similar Study Tours and workshops across the country to expand discussions between local authorities and BTR investors, operators and contractors. Full details of these important regional events will be shared in due course.