Inside Build-To-Rent
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Inside Build-To-Rent

The Australian uptake of the ‘new’ development platform remains dwarfed by overseas expansion — but things are moving.

By Terry Christodoulou
Thu, Jul 8, 2021 2:23pmGrey Clock 2 min
Build-To-Rent is a relatively nascent residential living market — one that is quickly moving beyond an ‘emerging’ tag as it spreads out across Australia. 
To understand the platform is to comprehend that where standard development equates to the construction of residences to be sold on completion, BTR developments are held, operated and rented by the developer. 
While the premise is straightforward it does present with a number of issues — among them land tax discounts and premium land transfer tax, alongside funding and consumer uptake issues that have caused it to stutter in its national rollout. 
Where the BTR industry in Australia continues to find its footing as a fresh consideration, BTR has been delivered and engaged in US markets for the best part of 40 years. Elsewhere, European markets such as London — which has expanded rapidly in alignment with federal government support since 2013 — has around 28,000 BTR properties completed, 16,000 under construction and 38,000 in planning, according to Statista research. 
Local experts such as Craig Godber, CBRE’s Associate Director, Head of Residential and Build-To-Rent Research Australia indicates that local trepidation may be more a case of ‘seeing is believing’ amongst prospective consumers. 
“I think that Australians have always partly accepted that there’s either owning a home or private renting, and it’ll take a few successful projects before a gradual uptake by renters is made,” said Godber. 
Where BTR differs from traditional renting is in its want to retain renters across extended periods and through a number of additional services such as dedicated concierge services, mail rooms, meeting rooms and mixed-use office spaces. 
Further, with one central controlling body overseeing each building operation, BTR offers flexible long-term tenancies, client-centric onsite management as well as appealing allowances in rewards to personalisation (painting and decorating) and pets. 
The caveat is that more lifestyle services means increased outlay. 
“There is the expectation that rents in BTR developments will be higher as opposed to the private market, and that may take some time for the consumer adjust to,” added Godber. 
The premium services offered by BTR have dispelled early market fears about it being rebranded social housing.
“That perception existed early on, particularly as the developments are purpose built, but as people and investors continue to learn about it that stigma fades away.”
Godber is increasingly optimistic about the future, buoyed by with a number of projects by renowned operators Mirvac and Grocon and an expansive market being further fed by various overseas developers. 

Sydney and Melbourne remain key with the Victorian capital outpacing the northern city’s pipeline by almost double, according to research from Knight Frank. 

The number of BTR apartments in Melbourne’s planning currently sits at 6000, well ahead of Sydney’s 3300 and Brisbane’s 1600.

11.1% of development sites purchased in 2020 in Melbourne were earmarked for high-density, BTR projects while in Sydney that figure was 0.7%.

Despite the recent interest and development proposals in the pipeline uptake is still expected to be rather gradual when compared to the recent explosions in popularity of BTR in Europe. 
Godber indicates that further government assistance and incentive, aligned to increased interest at an institutional investor level will help BTR continue to grow across Australia. 
“Financial models, the combination of better taxation and the structuring of funds as institutional investment vehicles for build-to-rent are all essential to seeing the sector continue to grow.”


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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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