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Build to Rent and Community Benefits

Andy Jones, Group Director, Corporate  & Build to Rent, Leaders Romans Group (LRG)

Build to Rent (BTR) and more specifically, its regional iteration, BTR suburban communities, is a relatively new property type. So although BTR, together with private market housing and affordable housing, falls within the C3 Use Class, its owners and operators are now questioning whether it, should it be bound by the same limitations as traditional housing developments - or should new rules apply?

BTR is growing exponentially: 15% year-on-year, according to the British Property Federation.


Initially, it was designed to appeal to London-based young professionals.  But recently the regions have surged ahead, growing at almost triple the pace (20%, compared to 7%).

The fast-emerging BTR suburban communities provide something very different: family homes, located outside urban areas, which maintain the strong sense of community which made traditional BTR such a success – but with landscaped outdoor areas suitable for families in place of indoor games rooms and gyms. The values of BTR remain: high standards in service and management and a strong focus on sustainability and most importantly alongside a rich variety of services and amenities.

The traditional housing estate is on the decline, one hastened by the pandemic - as ‘community’ took on a new importance and the 15 minute neighbourhood concept became commonplace.

Modern communities frequently include a ‘hub’ or ‘incubator’: a social space and a workplace, and often much more (increasingly such schemes include nano breweries, bike hire facilities, rapid electric charging points).

And so with a range of house types and tenures, a strong emphasis on community and extensive services and employment opportunities, BTR suburban communities have considerable potential to deliver on the levelling up agenda while also addressing the housing crisis and net zero.

Community facilities

So to what extent should affordable housing be delivered as part of the package of community benefits?

There is a stark absence of national policy on the subject and although BTR exists in 45% of all English local authorities few have a policy in place, each instead taking a case-by-case approach based on viability. As the sector matures, affordable housing policies for the sector will no doubt become more established.

So should BTR expect to deliver as much as a third of the scheme as ‘affordable’, as more traditional developments do? Or does the considerable potential of BTR suburban communities to provide community facilities reduce the need for affordable housing provision?

It is important to bear in mind that BTR suburban communities provide the ideal opportunity for multi-generational living in a way that is impossible in many locations, and has the capacity to reduce the significant shortfall in later living accommodation and extra care facilities.

Partnerships with local authorities, in providing homes, social care, education and leisure facilities have real potential. Joint ventures which enable BTR to cross-subsidise other property assets can deliver bespoke schemes, ideally suited to a specific location and its unique needs.

BTR offers huge scope for community benefits and that while affordable housing / DMR will often feature among these, the development and the community it serves would benefit from the flexibility to provide a wider selection of community benefits, meeting the most pressing needs of the local community.



Andy Jones has worked in the private rented sector for over 25 years and joins LRG from his previous role at Greystones Management Consultancy where he advised clients on property investments across the UK. He has experience dealing with all property services from lettings to managing and disposing of large scale institutional owned property portfolios. Previously, Andy was Managing Director of Allsop Letting & Management, where he focused on delivering change programmes and driving a new strategic direction for the business nationally. Prior to this he held various senior management roles for LSL Property Services Plc Group where he was responsible, as Director, for helping to establish the Corporate lettings team in 2007.


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