30.06.2020Build-to-rent offers benefits to the consumer and the economy on the road to recovery from COVID-19

The Committee for Melbourne’s lastest discussion on Build-to-Rent (BTR) highlighted the unique opportunities for consumers in the new social and economic environment following COVID-19. As the way people live and work changes, and as consumer preferences increasingly move towards higher density living, BTR offers an opportunity to create meaningful change.   

This was a major takeaway from the Committee’s Road to recovery E-Room forum held on Wednesday 27 May. Mark Dawson (Director, Urbis); Tim Chislett (Partner elect, Allens) and Adam Hirst (General Manager, Build-to-Rent, Mirvac) explored  the impacts that COVID-19 will have on the housing market and specifically BTR and then looked beyond the immediate challenges in the marketplace to understand the opportunity that BTR represents on the road to recovery, especially benefits towards the consumer and economic recovery. Moderated by Leanne Edwards (Director Policy, Committee for Melbourne), the panel discussion highlighted some of the following key messages: 

  • As an asset class, BTR is relatively new in Australia and has huge potential for growth.  
  • With more people looking to rent than ever before, there is growing demand for high-quality, well maintained rental properties with secure tenures, and a sense of stability and ownership, as well as improved customer service. These benefits have become even more important as people work from home – where office spaces and other communal spaces have increased in popularity.  
  • The growth of BTR in Australia is likely to have positive and lasting impact on the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of a large and growing segment of the population, as a result of the significant social benefits BTR offers. 
  • Many BTR developments can be located in existing suburbs and high-density areas, that have access to neighbourhood services, cafes and activities – these amenities have been highly valued during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people have spent time closer to home.  
  • BTR developments will contribute positively to economic recovery through delivery of housing supply and underpinning jobs.  
  • The joint report by Urbis and Allens, titled Build-to-rent: the key to unlocking the future liveability of Australia’s cities, remains as relevant as ever in demonstrating the benefits to housing supply and the policy settings that governments can use to facilitate BTR. Challenges continue to exist, particularly around financing, taxation and approvals processes. 
  • Both state and federal governments need to consider policy settings to facilitate BTR, including taxation and planning reforms.   

In summary, COVID-19 has shone a light on the importance of ensuring an adequate mix of housing types as well as an adequate supply of housing. We must continue to explore BTR to help resolve our housing affordability challenges, made all the more significant by COVID-19. Our state and federal governments must therefore turn their minds to policy reform that will facilitate BTR development in Melbourne. Some of the policy settings that could be considered by federal and state governments, were highlighted in the Committee’s submission to the Victorian Government’s inquiry into BTR Working Group.   

If you missed the forum, you can view it here. 

To see a copy of the Urbis and Allens joint report on Australia’s emerging BTR sector: Build-to-rent: the key to unlocking the future liveability of Australia’s cities, you can view it here. 

For more information about the Committee’s Housing Mix Taskforce, please contact Leanne Edwards, Director Policy at ledwards@melbourne.org.au  

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