It says the growing trend of luxurious interior design in modern student accommodation has helped to trigger a wider, US-style culture of lifelong housing rentals.
Acres Interiors, the interior design arm of the Nottingham-based company, has included a gym, café bar and library with pocket working areas in its designs for Chameleon’s Rest.
The multi-million-pound project – complete with luxury en suite studio apartments, bold colour schemes and ambient LED lighting – is designed to meet the increasing expectations of today’s students and reflects how far developers are having to up their game in a hugely competitive market.
Still at the pre-planning stage, Chameleon’s Rest, is just one of a growing number of projects that Acres Architects is lending its expertise to in the booming build-to-rent market.
The practice, based at Nottingham Science Park, believes that the higher expectations of students and their families are helping to catapult society closer to a whole-life rental culture rather than the traditional UK aspiration of homeownership.
Edward Acres, founder and managing director of the Acres Group, comments: “Today’s student accommodation is so good that, when they come to leave university, graduates can’t afford to buy anything close to the same standard. But they still want it.”
“So, they are renting fabulous new city centre apartments instead. It’s a major shift from what we were used to – and there’s now a huge emerging market in single-family housing in the suburbs that’s only available for rent. It’s a very US model, but a direction we are definitely heading in the UK.”
Acres says the ‘monthly payments culture’ was already evident in multiple aspects of modern life, from the way we pay for everything from cars to music, so the change in dynamic more heavily towards renting accommodation for life was unsurprising.
“More and more people, from twenty-somethings upwards, will be having to rent rather than buy,” he continues. “It’s not all the result of vastly improved student accommodation, but that certainly reflects an upswing in our expectations compared with a few years ago.”
Alicia Hollis, interior designer at the Acres Group, says there was clearly a proven market for more sophisticated design in student accommodation, that had partly been driven by the desire of universities to attract affluent foreign students, particularly those from Asia.
“The design is definitely now more like hotels,” she adds. “Better-configured kitchens and communal areas, gymnasiums, games zones and elegant café areas are becoming the norm, as is an increased focus on well-being spaces and ‘bringing the outside in’."
“Today’s students are also rarely forced to sleep in small, single beds and most have en suite shower rooms.”
Breaking ground at the new development site in Bristol
A ‘ground-breaking’ event to mark the start of construction of the first new homes at McArthur’s Yard took place last week.
November 17 saw the Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, Councillor Tom Renhard, join senior members of The Guinness Partnership and The Hill Group to officialise the important milestone.
Commenting on the start of work on-site, Cllr. Renhard says: “A great partnership between Guinness and Hill, together with Bristol City Council planning department has resulted in this derelict brownfield site, which sat vacant for 20 years, to at last be put to good use. I am thrilled to be here today to break ground on what will soon become new homes for the people of Bristol.”
The significant harbourside site in Bristol’s historic dockyard is one of a few areas that has remained undeveloped in the city. Once completed, McArthur’s Yard will provide 142 new-build homes for market sale, shared ownership and social rent as well as commercial space on the ground floor and a café for the enjoyment of the community.
Jon Milburn, group development director at The Guinness Partnership, says: “We are delighted to have welcomed Councillor Renhard to join us this morning and thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to attend our event.”
“This ceremony marks an important ‘next step’ for Guinness and our delivery partner, Hill as we begin to create a new waterside community. I am delighted that work has now commenced on this significant addition for the city.”
McArthur’s Yard will provide a collection of 142 one, two and three-bedroom homes, which will be modern in design, thermally efficient and economical to live in with 20% of the energy generated through renewables.
The scheme will also include cycle spaces for residents to easily access the city centre and electric car charging points will be installed to enhance the environmental credentials.
Throughout the build of this new mixed-use development, new jobs will also be created for skilled local construction whilst the new street-level commercial units at the development will continue to boost the local economy whilst also offering local residents a wider choice of businesses on their doorsteps.
Chief executive for Hill Group, Andy Hill, adds: “We are delighted to celebrate the start of this exciting regeneration project in Bristol, a city which has a growing demand for housing. McArthur’s Yard will provide an attractive mix of new social and private apartments and houses which we will be creating to suit today’s lifestyle. I am sure many people will really enjoy living in this unique waterside development once completed.”
Ambitious BTR development in Hull gets the green light
A new build-to-rent (BTR) development in Hull is a step closer to being delivered after planning permission was granted by Hull City Council.
The £6.6 million development will be the first of several projects undertaken in partnership between BTR provider Wise Living and developer Strata Homes. It is also the first Wise Living project in collaboration with, and to be funded by, PGIM Real Estate.
The scheme will see 50 BTR homes, including two, three and four-bedroom properties, built on the Preston Road site in the Marfleet area of the city.
The plans form part of a large regeneration project which is being delivered by Strata, Keepmoat Homes and Homegroup. Once complete, the site will be home to more than 500 new units with the 50 BTR homes forming part of phase one of the project.
Approval of the development comes at a time when BTR has seen a surge in growth in the UK not just in major populous areas, but in smaller towns and cities too. In Q1 2021, the sector received an estimated £1.2 billion investment – 335% higher than Q1 2012.
Speaking on the project, Mark Gratton, land and development director at Wise Living, comments: “We are really pleased that our first BTR development in partnership with Strata has been given the green light following exchange of contracts. Together we will deliver quality private rental properties to the City of Hull, and we can’t wait for construction to get started in the near future.”
“We are delivering this project at a time when demand from families for high-quality rental properties in suburban areas is on the rise. Remote working is here to stay for many, meaning people now have more flexibility over where they live, and they are choosing quieter areas with easier access to green spaces. We have already seen this through our suburban BTR developments in Mansfield and Telford.”
Gratton says working with developers who share Wise Living’s ambition to deliver high-quality rental properties in the suburbs has been central to its strategy and why it sees Strata as such a key partner.
“We look forward to delivering more BTR developments in partnership with Strata in the coming months, with progress already made on additional sites in Mansfield for 36 units and Nottingham for 113 units as part of our growing pipeline together,” he says.
Mark Leaf, head of land at Strata, adds: “It is great to have been able to cement the relationship with Wise Living by starting a new scheme with them. Their product is a superb complement to ours on the Hull scheme and will help create a sustainable neighbourhood alongside our partners.”
“We have worked collaboratively to bring forward this scheme which will see Strata deliver 242 new homes as part of our strategic relationship with the Local Council.”
Earlier this year, PGIM Real Estate acquired a portfolio of single-family BTR homes from Wise Living. Comprising five existing schemes and three development sites, the deal includes a total of 433 units, which Wise Living will continue to manage on PGIM’s behalf.
Hull’s Preston Road is the first of the three new development sites to be announced following the deal.