City Futures Research Centre UNSW Built Environment

How can an Australian ‘build to rent’ product contribute to urban renewal and affordable housing supply?

Build to Rent is a residential product new to Australia which, in 2017, began to excite widespread interest in the Australian property industry. BTR refers to apartment blocks or larger developments purpose-built for rental occupation (usually at market price) and held in single ownership as long-term revenue-generating assets. As such, it represents a major departure from traditional Australian models of housing development and ownership, and would entail innovation in investment finance, corporate structures, and property and tenancy management practices.

Building on earlier CFRC research on prospects for institutional investment in rental housing, this research will investigate the form(s) a BTR model might take in the Australian context, and the prospects for BTR to gain a significant foothold in this housing market. In the UK, where the model first emerged as recently as 2012, some 96,000 BTR units have been subsequently completed or are in the construction pipeline.

For this research UNSW will be collaborating with colleagues at UTS and – taking charge of a UK fieldwork component – the London School of Economics. Australian fieldwork will include a wide range of stakeholder interviews and round table events, as well as project level case study work focused on schemes branded as such or with analogous characteristics (e.g. student housing, new generation boarding houses, NFP housing provider new build projects).

Questions to be addressed by the study include:

  1. How is the ‘Build to Rent’ concept being interpreted and defined in Australia?
  2. What can be learned from recent Australian housing products pre-figuring BTR?
  3. What is the appetite for involvement in BTR projects in the institutional investment community and among developers?
  4. In what geographical and housing market settings are BTR projects likely to be feasible in urban Australia? How could BTR projects be accommodated within renewal schemes?
  5. What are the essential features of BTR as it might be exemplified in Australia?
  6. Where would a BTR product likely sit within the Australian housing market and within tenants’ housing careers?
  7. What is the feasibility of incorporating affordable housing within BTR projects and what design/ownership configurations might facilitate this?
  8. What potential roles could be played by not-for-profit housing providers in BTR development and/or management?
  9. What possible policy and regulatory reforms could enhance BTR prospects?