The focus for government and local councils must now be on delivering genuinely affordable housing that helps build real communities. Considering the unattainable prices of home ownership, this is likely to mean rental stock.
The government’s prioritisation of home ownership has hardly helped. Rather than using billions of pounds to prop up this market through schemes such as Help to Buy – which only helps the relatively wealthy – they would do well to help the emerging “Build to Rent” sector, or better yet support the London boroughs becoming “Build to Rent” landlords themselves.
The facts are simple: The London boroughs are obligated to provide homes, own a great deal of land, are a no-risk borrower, can grant planning consents and, due to the government’s budget cuts, are looking to open up new revenue streams. The Annual Residential Property Index (ARPI) consistently demonstrates that residential outperforms both industrial and commercial real estate in terms of yield – an obvious place for state investment.
Rather than selling off their most valuable asset – land – councils would do well to hold on to it, develop it, and invest in the community whilst creating a new revenue stream. After all, land is a finite resource and councils can’t rely on on-going disposal. The sand eventually runs out.
To be fair to the London boroughs, there are signs that such ideas are beginning to gain traction. Research conducted by Broadway Malyan has shown a new approach being explored by several London boroughs, forming their own development companies, independent from, but owned by the council.
By examining the planning policies of all thirty-two London boroughs plus the City of London the research reveals that only eight (24%) have taken a positive position on the sector, with policy that recognises the role Build to Rent can play in boosting house numbers. Nineteen boroughs (58%) have not recognised the sector within their development plans.
Eleven London Boroughs (33%) are either in the early stages of establishing, or have already established their own development company, capable of building its own Build to Rent schemes. These companies, eminently fundable, must use their own land to build large-scale “Build to Rent” schemes with rent taken ensuring a long-term revenue stream to be reinvested in essential services and the funding of more affordable forms of housing.
With consistently low interest rates, and by creating an independent company councils are able to borrow beyond their government-imposed debt caps. Such housing would also be exempt from “Right to Buy” policies, ensuring that they remain rental stock in the long-term.
The question is why aren’t all London boroughs considering such an approach?
To find out more read our report: Unlocking Build to Rent