Blog: Time for action to back up words on Build-to-Rent

Richard Slipper
Richard Slipper

Richard Slipper from GVA on what the Scottish Government can do to address the nation’s housing shortage ahead of today’s Budget.

Everyone is agreed that Scotland has a housing shortage.

Most people involved in the residential property sector agree that quickly bringing through high-quality homes for rent would help ease the problem.

There have been several boosts for the build-to-rent (BTR) market in Scotland recently. The sector received support through the Scottish Government’s ‘A Place to Stay’ and Homes for Scotland’s ‘Building the Rented Sector’ documents in 2014. This was followed by advice on tenancies, rental income support in planning in October 2015 and further bolstered by Planning and Delivery advice in March this year.

However, whilst the Scottish Government has urged planning authorities to facilitate more build-to-rent developments over the past two years, it’s time for more concrete action to ensure a cohesive approach to delivering what is required in this sector.

With the iron still hot from the successful Private Rented Sector (PRS) Forum Scotland last month, at which the Minister for Local Government and Housing declared Scotland open for immediate business in relation to build-to-rent, there’s no moment like the present for the Scottish Government to show local authorities what is actually needed.

In line with the Minister’s rhetoric, we would suggest the government produce a concrete guide for all urban planning groups. This should encompass identifying suitable sites, confirming the scale and placemaking qualities of sites and design codes for professionally managed blocks.

Furthermore, the government could identify circumstances where narrow development viability margins could be ‘open booked’ and consequent easements on planning contributions applied. This particular aspect would be especially useful for affordable housing provision and was highlighted in the 2015 Investment Property Forum paper.

If the Scottish Government does not grasp the initiative and drive the BTR sector forward under one initiative, the alternative threatens to be differing approaches from local areas on an ad-hoc basis at a pace which might be too late for the keen ranks of investors lining up.

This would fly in the face of the Minister’s message on brisk build-to-rent delivery in Scotland – and threaten to choke off a much-needed supply of housing to the market.

  • Richard Slipper is senior director or planning development and regeneration at GVA
  • Share icon
    Share this article: