Discount market rent will allow build to rent to be delivered at scale

With London in desperate need of new homes across a range of price points and tenures, last week’s Supplementary Planning Guidance giving the rental market its own affordable housing classification was a welcome move.

Under the new policy guidelines, build to rent developers will be able to offer discount market rent (DMR) as their entire affordable housing contribution. Crucially all the units will remain under single ownership and management, meaning no divisive ‘poor doors’. Having control of the affordable element also allows companies like Essential Living to take a long-term view as an investor and developer.

Above all, the Greater London Authority’s pragmatic approach in refining planning and affordable housing provision to support build to rent will encourage new institutional money to build additional homes that London critically needs. While an emerging sector, build to rent has the potential to deliver thousands of homes at speed and at scale.

At Creekside Wharf, our 249-home development in Greenwich, we helped pioneer the use of DMR.  Thanks to the forward-thinking planners in Greenwich, at Creekside Wharf we were able to deliver 25% affordable as DMR, which would have been only 20% if delivered as traditional affordable housing.

All residents will have access to the same amenities and apartments of the same specification, regardless of income. DMR levels will be set from 55% of full market rate, and Greenwich council will be able to choose the DMR tenants.

This innovative approach to affordable housing delivery was well received locally. Upon being granted planning consent, councillors in Greenwich said it was “refreshing to see a developer think out of the box” while the chair of committee praised Creekside Wharf for being “unique”.

Council leader Denise Hyland added: “The scheme is highly imaginative and I wish it every success. I’m very impressed with the affordable [housing] offer and this is overall an innovative scheme.”

Creekside Wharf, as well as being one of the first purpose-built rental projects to include DMR, is the first to include a dedicated family block, complete with buggy storage, extra acoustic insulation and on-site crèche. It will also the first and tallest modular build to rent schemes.

Embracing innovation will be key to building the homes London needs. By accepting different affordability requirements for build to rent and market-sale housing, the GLA has gone some way to showing that.

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