Student accommodation specialist Amro Real Estate Partners is diversifying into the private rented sector and has launched a search for a £500m capital partner.
The London-based investment and asset manager has acquired two sites, in Ealing and Kingston upon Thames, to develop under a new build-to-rent platform called AmroLiving. The schemes comprise 500 homes in total.
Amro Real Estate Partners has acquired two sites to develop under its newly launched build-to-rent platform, AmroLiving. The company plans to deliver 1,500 units across Greater London in the next five years, catering for the growing demand for purpose-built rental accommodation.
The housing crisis is a hot topic not just in the property industry but across society as a whole. A report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said that the UK government needed to boost its homebuilding target by 50% to create 300,000 new homes each year to tackle the housing crisis.
Student housing markets in continental Europe are catching up with the UK, just as Brexit uncertainty hovers over the 2019-20 academic year.
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Over recent years, the UK has started to take mental health seriously, and with good reason. Some say we are living through an epidemic of loneliness. 2017 saw Prime Minister Theresa May appoint MP Tracey Crouch as minister for loneliness, after studies found that more than 9 million adults in the UK are either always or often lonely. Months later, MP Jackie Doyle-Price was named as minister for suicide prevention. UK suicide rates have dropped in recent years, but it remains the leading cause of death for men aged under 45.
A way to tackle this problem is to increase opportunities for social interaction through the development of communities. As developers, we can aim to build these opportunities into new schemes, allowing residents to gain that sense of belonging, of taking part, and engagement, that will ultimately result in increased mental wellbeing.
The burgeoning Build to Rent sector has an opportunity to contribute. The essence of a successful Build to Rent development is enabling residents to see their rented homes as a long-term option. Developers aim to do this by attempting to build a sense of community and belonging into their schemes.
Amongst other features, there is a focus on high quality, flexible amenity space. These spaces provide regular opportunities for residents to meet and take part in activities together. There is also proactive management by an on-site team, including the organisation and supervision of community events. Training can be provided to ensure that the team spends just as much time on the welfare of residents, ensuring they are happy and feel supported, than on ensuring schemes are operationally efficient.
The diversity of the Build to Rent’s target market also provides opportunities to address issues. The resident body of a Build to Rent scheme can be made up of everybody from young people, through to families, and on to older people who have reconciled with renting. This diversity offers a greater range of experiences, of feeling part of something bigger, and of connections being made between generations. This is a true community.
Developers in other sectors may not see as much opportunity to contribute as those in Build to Rent, but there are still initiatives to be taken. Even simple design specifications can help create an environment that supports mental wellbeing. For example, ensuring the availability of sufficient natural light in units, sound-proofing to minimise the impact of noise, and good provision of green spaces can all go towards improving the mood of residents.
Building in design efficiencies allows developments to perform and function in the best possible manner. Without considering efficiency, buildings produce waste for the developer in the shape of underused or dysfunctional space, and waste for residents in the shape of time lost or a problematic living environment. Developers must consider efficiency from the start of the design process and constantly check back to see if they are meeting good standards. Below are three handy questions developers should be asking themselves to gauge efficiency standards in the design of their buildings.
Is there any wasted space in the building?
The spaces in a building should add value. If they don’t they are a waste. Value is easy to quantify in terms of rentable space, but what about your amenity, ancillary, and transitory spaces? Is that amenity space really going to make people want to live here? What secondary use could we get out of this corridor other than just allowing people to get from Point A to Point B?
Does the design help the building function as it should?
In residential development, the primary function of the building is to create a positive living environment for residents. This can be achieved through, amongst other things, efficient use of space allowing for good levels of convenience and comfort. Developers must ask if their building design is intuitive. Does it allow residents to move around it easily and are key shared areas easily accessible to all?
Is there flexibility in your design?
One of the best ways to allow for efficient use of space is to enable spaces to have multiple functions. These functions will be different for each space type. For example, an amenity space functioning as a shared dining area could easily be adjusted to provide a meeting or work space. In apartments, flexibility means that the space could be used by various demographics and tenure types. Could a young family live just as comfortably in one of your 2 bed apartments as a couple of young sharers?
Author – Patrick Crowe – Planning and Research Manager – 24th July 2018