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Investors keen on Build to Rent

Institutional investors are extremely interested in Build to Rent (BTR) as a new investment class, a forum of community housing, local government, financiers and Development Victoria heard this week.

Alexandra Notay, from Places for People Capital UK, outlined the UK’s experience in developing Build to Rent as a new investment class that has interested funders keen to tap into a low, long-term and stable cashflow that will hedge against inflationary pressures and diversify their portfolios.

Large BTR investors in the UK include Australian super funds, she says.

Places for People has a social agenda to provide appropriate, well-located housing for disadvantaged tenants. It has diversified its housing activities to include a range of for-profit business arms, including a chain of gyms, with profits being funnelled back into affordable housing. BTR is a key part of its business model, with the organisation developing several large-scale, mixed tenure projects.

Like Australia, the UK has experienced a huge increase in house prices that has ensured many will rent for life, Ms Notay says, and BTR can offer those people secure, quality and affordable tenancies.

‘Whatever stage in life people are at, we want to be able to support them,’ Ms Notay says.

Build to rent product is fundamentally different to properties that are built to sell, she says. It involves a change of mindset with design implications for large scale developments that are never intended to be broken up to be sold individually and a need to consider the life-cycle of the build.

They also need to factor in other social aspects of housing, such as hedging against the rise of loneliness and depression.

Mike Myers from the National Affordable Housing Consortium, says that institutional investors in Australia are still wary of the fledgling BTR market here and are more likely to invest overseas. However, Mr Myers says the Federal Government’s National Rental Affordable Scheme was a great model that could be tweaked for the private sector to use for BTR, if the government was willing to support it.

CHIA CEO Peta Winzar says if the NHFIC’s $1b infrastructure fund could be used to fund BTR, ‘that would be a game changer’.

Ms Notay’s presentation was made possible by the NAHC, the Affordable Housing Industry Advisory Group and the Community Housing Industry Association of Australia (CHIA).