Richard Slipper: Planners need to broaden horizons

The build-to-rent model is funded by long-term institutional investment. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The build-to-rent model is funded by long-term institutional investment. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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BUILD-TO-RENT projects can help ease the housing crisis, writes Richard Slipper

A recent letter from the government’s chief planner, John McNairney, to the heads of planning at Scottish councils calls for a positive and flexible approach to private rented sector (PRS) planning applications. The letter is both welcome and timely, given that the housing shortage, particularly in Scotland’s main cities, is beginning to impinge on economic development – for example, Edinburgh’s continued prosperity relies on attracting highly skilled people to the financial sector and burgeoning hi-tech industry.

However, addressing the housing crisis is not just about delivering a specified number of units, but also building quality homes that are part of desirable neighbourhoods with excellent amenities – known as “place-making”.

This build-to-rent model is funded by long-term institutional investment and has been used successfully in Europe and North America.

However, introducing and sustaining this type of housing provision will require clear political direction and an up-front commitment to planning consent. Because in many instances the build-to-rent sector provides an immediate start on the housing ladder for key workers, councils should prioritise these developments.

It is important that this is introduced quickly in order to attract these much-needed developments to increase our housing stock.

• Richard Slipper is ­senior director, planning, development & regeneration, with GVA James Barr