Taskforce calls on local authorities to build to rent

The Government’s Private Rented Sector Taskforce will be encouraging local authorities to invest in local built-to-rent schemes, as it moves into its second year of existence. Alongside a continued push to get major investing institutions to see the sector as somewhere they need to allocate funds long term, there will be further attempts to get housing associations more active in the private rented sector.

These initiatives have been outlined by Andrew Stanford, head of the taskforce, as key actions for year two of the group’s existence. “We want to work with councils to see how they can encourage or invest in build-to-rent schemes in their areas,” said Stanford in his end of year report, published recently in Property Week magazine. Despite the success of Help to Buy, which has encouraged greater building of new homes for first time buyers, “there is clear demand for high quality rented accommodation available on flexible terms”.

Stanford reflects on positive first year for PRS Taskforce

Stanford reflects on positive first year for PRS Taskforce

Housing associations have been slow to get involved in the private rented sector, with a few notable exceptions. Even those who are building for private rent often see it as only a minor adjunct to their main business of creating subsidised, affordable housing. Among those taking the leap is Genesis, which recently won the largest slug of money yet awarded from the Build to Rent fund, for around 500 new homes build for the private rented sector. “There is a lot of expertise in the social housing sector,” says Stanford, “and I want to work closely with landlords to see how they can use that to help meet the growing need of their communities for flexible, affordable private rented accommodation built to a high standard.” Stanford himself has recently joined the board of housing association Orbit Group – so expect them to commit to build more private rented homes soon.

Looking back on a successful first year for the task force, Stanford notes that the £1 billion Build to Rent scheme, effectively providing pump priming loans from the Government, has helped with schemes already under construction. A further 36 projects have been shortlisted for support, and will complete initial vetting in May 2015.

He also points out that planning guidance now encourages housebuilding for private rent. And initiatives such as the Urban Land Institute’s design guide, and a code of practice for the rental industry, are helping to raise professionalism and standards all round.

“The work of my task force is to encourage institutions to consider this growing market as a place to invest,” promises Stanford.

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