27 November 2020

Government puts Build to Rent in housing mix with feasibility study

| Ian Bushnell
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Apartment building

The Build to Rent model is gaining popularity in Australia as home prices soar. Photo: File.

The ACT Government is looking to the growing Build to Rent sector to boost the amount of affordable and secure rental housing in the ACT, which has one of the tightest and expensive rental markets in the country.

It has commissioned a feasibility study to examine BTR’s potential for growing the supply of affordable rental stock through the community housing and private sectors.

A government spokesperson said that the Build to Rent model involved all of the dwellings in a development being owned by one ‘owner’ and rented out, rather than sold, providing longer tenures as well as better tenant experience and satisfaction, as well as stable financial returns for the owner.

BTR developments are usually multi-storey but there are examples overseas of single-level houses being built under this model.

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The model is popular in the US and is making its presence felt in Australia as home ownership moves beyond the reach of more people who want secure, long-term roofs over their heads, as well as amenities and services.

It is also attracting the attention of institutional investors and superannuation funds looking for stable returns, and governments trying to resolve affordable housing shortages.

Some believe BTR could provide an “affordable housing” solution for many people who struggle in the private rental market.

But this will require major government funding inputs or planning concessions.

A Victorian budget measure will halve the land tax levied on build-to-rent developments from 2022 through to 2040, and follows a similar land tax cut for BTR projects adopted by NSW in July this year.

The government has contracted Paxon Consulting Group to do the study, which will examine policies and tax treatments that may restrict the uptake of BTR, and what incentives could be used to encourage it such as tax and land discounts, shared equity arrangements or long-term payment plans.

It will examine the ACT’s demographic and population trends, especially in light of the pandemic, and identify potential demand for BTR developments in the ACT.

The study will identify suitable sites, the optimum size of developments and the right mix of products, including affordable and low-income accommodation.

It will also develop three scenarios:

  • A BTR development on identified government land to be released to the market under current policy and financial conditions.
  • A BTR for identified government land to be released to the market under more favourable policies and conditions.
  • A typical build to sell development on government land.

The consultant will arrange meetings between government and institutional investors, advise on how government would pitch a BTR proposal to investors and what an Expression of Interest to market might entail.

The government expects a final report by 14 May 2021.

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The spokesperson said the ACT Housing Strategy flagged the release of a site for the construction of affordable properties under a Build to Rent model.

The recent Parliamentary Agreement between Labor and the Greens also announced the development of an affordable rental BTR dwelling co-located with Common Ground Gungahlin.

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