Build to Rent in Scotland:
The latest published research by the British Property Federation (BPF) suggests that Build to Rent (BTR) is approaching the 100,000 unit milestone at 95,918 homes now completed, under construction or at the planning stage.
Many housing industry professionals now see BTR as a big part of the solution to the UK’s housing crisis and a move towards the type of property market which is popular in parts of Europe and the United States.
Thanks to recent Government efforts to tackle the housing shortage in this regard, BTR starts have seen around a 40 per cent increase over compared the first quarter of 2017, but according to Hazel Sharp Webb, head of BTR & PRS, Rettie & Co, writing for the Scotsman newspaper, little more than 1 per cent of this investment is being directed at Scotland.
However, she says, “…this may be partly due to some misconceptions about the sector in Scotland and not enough positive information about why Scotland is an attractive proposition for BTR. However, she says, “it should also be recognised that tenancy reform is creating a lot of political “noise”, particularly the apparent keenness of some councillors to use Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) as a form of reinstatement of the old rent controls.”
Playing down the possibility of the introduction of rent controls in Scotland and their effects on investment decisions, Ms Sharp Webb says, “RPZs may or may not be used and, in any case, they limit rent increases on existing tenancies only.”
The new Private Residential Tenancy, which is due to come into force in Scotland on 1 December this year, will have no initial tenancy term, which is definitely a concern for investors, as well as for Buy to let (BTL) landlords in particular.
However, says Ms Sharp Webb, “…residents may have no real need or desire to move around if they are living in a professionally managed, high quality home. Under the new tenancy, there also continues to be a number of reasonable grounds for landlord possession of property, even though (rightly) tenants will now have greater security of tenure.”
Others in the industry see this as an “idealistic” view as to the way these tenancies will work out in practice, especially if tenants fail to pay rent and look after the property, and only time will tell if they prove successful for landlords and tenants.
Ms Sharp Webb argues that Scotland benefits from relatively low entry prices; strong yields; multiple dwellings relief on Land & Buildings Transaction Tax; and more certainty around the regulatory regime, relative to the rest of the UK.
“Our main cities also have significant shortfalls in housing supply at a time of rising demand from increasing populations. At the Movers & Shakers Scotland BTR Forum, held in Edinburgh last Thursday, the Scottish Government proposed a new Rental Income Guarantee Scheme (RIGS), which should send a positive message out to [BTR] investors that the Government is intent on encouraging and growing the BTR sector in Scotland, says Ms Sharp Webb.
“This is effectively a form of government-backed insurance for schemes in the fledging [BTR] sector, with decisions post application to the scheme taking no more than two months. A new planning advice note for BTR has also been published and “The Build to Rent Opportunity in Scotland”, commissioned by the government, was launched on Thursday, she says.
In the note the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart, says:
“Build to Rent is an important part of the Scottish Government’s approach to growing and improving the private rented sector”.
Scotland needs to get on the map with BTR, says Ms Sharp Webb, “…especially in our main cities. While rent controls may offer the perception of easy solutions, the fundamental problem of lack of housing supply means that innovations like BTR must be grasped while they still can.”