The residential concept known as build-to-rent is one in which a housing developer maintains ownership of a multi-residential structure, while renting out housing units to tenants, is currently highly popular in the building business. Popular both in the United States and the United Kingdom, the idea otherwise known as BTR is not yet widely popular in Australia—although we do see the concept explored in the form of defence, aged care and student housing developments.
Yet the times they are a changing, as Australia’s housing market is morphing rapidly. The number of rental households now stands at 31 percent, representing the addition of half a million new units in a decade. Housing affordability is a related issue, with capital city housing prices elevating by 15 percent in five years. Millennials comprise about a third of Australian rental households countrywide—even more in Sydney (53 percent) and Melbourne (48 percent).
On the other end of the scale, Australia’s rental market is filled with retired people, younger couples and families, and new residents to the country. The BTR model is gaining popularity, with a total of 4,600 apartments planned within 11 projects nationwide throughout the past three years.
Grocon, an early development in the BTR segment which involved the conversion of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village into a BTR precinct, was followed up with rental projects in Perth and Melbourne’s Southbank. Mirvac soon will introduce a new BTR project being built at Sydney Olympic Park, and has committed to buy nearly 500 build-to-rent apartments geared toward the high-end luxury housing market in Melbourne’s CBD.
The success of BTR developments relies on their ability to draw and maintain tenants. This goal can be achieved through the design of out and out inspiring spaces, and communities in which people truly belong.
Different varieties of residences must be designed to suit the needs of all different types of residents. Uniform must be the overall excellence of design, quality and a sense-of-place, with an eye toward the optimization of demographics, functionality, usability, accessibility, flexibility, sustainability, resilience and longevity.
Hassell’s Medibank building project, situated in Melbourne’s Docklands, an innovative and health-oriented multi-unit workspace, is one example of the BTR concept owned by CBUS. It features an edible garden, an internal bicycle ramp, and a multipurpose sports court.
A holistic design approach is best for BTR developments—one that focuses on architecture, landscape and urban design, with intrinsically interconnected living and working spaces flowing together to create a natural, cohesive whole. Hassell’s Flour Mill of Summer Hill project in Sydney, for example, involved the transformation of an aged industrial site into a new community of homes, cafes, shops and parks that merged together perfectly into one cohesive place. The developer, EG Funds, even puts together special events for residents.
While build-to-rent has excellent prospects in Australia, BTR projects must be produced with consistent—and excellent—quality to keep the dream alive.