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New UKAA CEO: 'rental reform will narrow the gap between PRS and BTR'

The UK's Build to Rent (BTR) sector continues to grow and evolve, which arguably makes the role of the market's trade body increasingly important.

Brendan Geraghty recently took over as the new CEO of the UKAA - the main membership body for the UK BTR sector - replacing Dave Butler. The organisation was founded in 2016 in response to a growing awareness of the need for 'a single unifying body to the Build To Rent sector and to the increasing levels of interest in Build To Rent from many parties'.

Here, we chat to Geraghty about taking over as CEO, brand awareness, BTR evolution and what the UKAA could improve on moving forward.


You've recently taken over as UKAA's new CEO - how do you plan to take the trade body forward?

The UKAA is a very broad church whose membership includes the full spectrum of those involved in BTR, from investors and lenders all the way through to suppliers and operators. We don’t represent a particular trade or profession, rather we reflect the full BTR ecosystem and show the inter-connectivity and mutual dependence of all those engaged in this dynamic and fast-growing sector.

The UKAA has established itself as the BTR authority in the UK. Our plan is to consolidate and strengthen this position by expanding our membership, promoting the highest professional standards and the value of the customer to all areas of the residential renting economy.

Of course, the backdrop to all our initiatives, and one we take very seriously, is to support our members to meet the pressing and urgent challenges of the Climate Emergency, Net Zero Carbon and ESG reporting.

What has the UKAA done well over the past few years and what could it still improve on?

The UKAA now has a recognisable and respected brand with deep expertise, experience and understanding of BTR. Over the past few years we have methodically captured the high-value knowledge and insights of our members and distributed to membership through forums, webinars, conferences and networking.

This knowledge, and these activities, provide our members with both a competitive edge and access to new opportunities. We have commissioned a Best Practice Guide, authored by our members, that sets new standards for the industry, shares mistakes and remedies and is relevant to both entry-level and mature BTR players.

Going forward, we will continue to nurture and grow the high-quality knowledge within the UKAA and use this valuable content as the foundation for sustained growth and to attract and retain members.

Some would argue that the UKAA doesn't have the brand awareness or stature that the likes of ARLA or the NRLA have - do you think is a fair assessment?

It is true that we are younger than ARLA and NRLA, and we serve different markets. These organisations serve the PRS market, we serve BTR. BTR is not PRS. BTR has a wider set of stakeholders, runs different financial and operating models and a broader criteria for success. The UKAA’s brand in BTR is established, strong and growing.

How do you see BTR evolving over the next five years? Will it eventually challenge the dominance of the traditional PRS?

The recent Renters' Reform Bill feels like an evolution in renting and will force change in PRS. It narrows the gap between PRS and BTR as many of the changes suggested by the Bill are already built in to the BTR offering. BTR is on its own trajectory, it is rapidly expanding and already institutionally recognised.

It does not seek to dominate PRS, but rather to present an alternative rental option to the market. In doing so, it will aim to satisfy investors and customers. BTR’s success and reach will be driven by its ability to deliver quality and value to all its stakeholders.

What is your background in property/BTR?

I am an architect who specialised in residential design. I have 12 years’ experience in the rental sector and have been a long-time advocate for customer-centricity in residential real estate. My ‘Brand Before Building’ methodology was developed specifically for the BTR sector.

Is it hard to speak with one voice for the BTR market, given the many varied schemes and companies involved, or is the industry actually quite united?

The BTR sector is united, collaborative, and clear on its objectives. We are responsible for delivering value to our investors, operators and customers. As a long income model and to optimise value, BTR demands greater integration of design, delivery and operational requirements. We are united in working towards improving these ends.

What are the main challenges and potential opportunities you see for the BTR market?

Primary challenges faced by all those operating within the BTR sector include climate change and achieving Net Zero carbon, construction costs affecting viability of developments, demand and supply imbalances and recruiting and training the BTR workforce.

Against that, there are also many potential opportunities including increasing market share and delivering national reach, making BTR the preferred rental choice for consumers, increasing understanding of the economic and social value of the customer and product segmentation for different consumer needs.


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