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Huge rise in build-to-rent applications during Covid-19 pandemic

Words: Huw Morris
High rise under construction

The UK’s build-to-rent sector has performed robustly during the Covid-19 pandemic year with planning applications rising by 52 per cent.

Research commissioned by build-to-rent specialist Ascend Properties, which analysed UK, Scottish, Welsh government and North Ireland government statistics, shows that the market has regained momentum after recovering from an early shock during the pandemic.

The pre-pandemic peak for build-to-rent applications came in the second quarter of 2019, when 6,682 were submitted. Of these, an all-time high of 62 per cent or 4,151 were granted full planning consent while 2,531 were either rejected or voluntarily withdrawn, an all-time low of 38 per cent. 

Although the total number of build-to-rent applications fell only slightly to 6,530 in the second quarter of 2020, the approval rate slumped significantly to just 39 per cent, while rejection and withdrawal jumped to almost 61 per cent.

However, the analysis reveals that the sector showed signs of being on the brink of a post-pandemic boom during the first quarter of 2021.

An all-time high of 11,975 applications were submitted, up 52 per cent on the year. Of these, 58 per cent received full approval, a rise of almost 6 per cent since the start of the pandemic, while 42 per cent were either rejected or withdrawn, a drop of nearly 6 per cent on the year.

“It’s clear that build-to-rent is becoming the go-to choice for developers, with projects popping up both in major cities and smaller regional towns,” said Ascend Properties’ managing director Ged McPartlin.

“But what we’re also seeing is a clear uptick in willingness from local planning authorities to grant permission for build-to-rent developments. While developers sense high-yield, low-risk opportunities, local authorities sense an opportunity to simultaneously meet the demand for new homes while rejuvenating and reinvigorating their economies and communities by introducing this new, dynamic way of living.”

Image credit | Victor Huang, iStock