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Big thinking on build to rent

Yesterday London First hosted its third annual PRS Forum with Movers and Shakers. To quote the tweet of one delegate, “PRS 2017 was a triumph. The entire build to rent community in one place.”

The sell-out conference brought together private, public, and voluntary sector organisations all with the same goal in mind: making build to rent work for London.

John Dickie, London First Policy and Strategy Director pointed to the pressing need to address London’s housing crisis by creating the right solutions through collaboration, citing the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign as a great example of that in action.

The morning keynote was delivered by Craig McWilliam, Chief Executive of conference headline partner Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, who set a positive and forward looking tone to the day.

Sessions generated discussion on all facets of build to rent from housing associations to local authorities and investors to developers.

Throughout the day there were recurring themes of the importance of placemaking and the recognition that build to rent is not one product but a range tailored to different parts of the market.

The morning featured panel sessions with housing associations and local authorities. Both recognised the benefits as well as challenges. There was broad recognition that housing associations are well placed to deliver these schemes but face a juggling act to balance their ambitions with responsibilities to existing tenants, demands of the regulator and risk profile. While local authorities were keen to voice their support for PRS as a means of meeting their diversifying housing needs, there was concern around lack of affordable options.

Karen Cooksey, Partner and Head of Planning at Winckworth Sherwood later turned the spotlight on regeneration, where build to rent has a natural fit. The discussion brought out how the scale, pace, place based approach and economic resilience of build to rent complements regeneration schemes.

A panel representing house builders Kier, Telford Homes, Mount Anvil and Willmott Residential was chaired by Liz Pearce CBE, Property, Politics and Built Environment Adviser. There was strong agreement that lack of available land was the key barrier, rather than investment.

The day was rounded off by a session on brand building, chaired by Tim Reid of Four Communications before Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray took to the stage for the closing Keynote.

Murray was encouraged by the government placing housing supply high on the agenda, and reflected on the recent white paper which is supportive of the Mayor’s aims and helps point London in a better direction. The Deputy Mayor championed the role of PRS in addressing the need for a more diverse London housing market, and was pleased to see this recognised in the recent white paper.

London First would like to thank the support of PRS Forum partners 2017:

Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, Winckworth Sherwood, CBRE, The Collective, Quintain, Assael, GVA, Ringley, Yardi, premier guarantee, The Acorn Group, Essential Living, Grid Architects and McBains Cooper.

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