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A look at the North West Build to Rent market: increasing supply in the UK’s second city

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​Written by Peter Rowe, Development Manager at Packaged Living.

Originally published by Property Week in October 2021.

Earlier this month, Manchester was named by Time Out as the third best city in the world, putting itself on the map alongside San Francisco and Amsterdam.

I moved to Manchester back in 2012 to take a new job and it didn’t take me long to realise that the city had the ingredients to be a fantastic place to live – creativity, a thriving nightlife, community spirit, friendliness, world-class sport and culture, and accessibility to some the UK’s finest countryside.

However, back in 2012, the build to rent (BtR) sector was only just emerging, and the supply of purpose-built, good quality, private rental accommodation was extremely limited. I recall struggling to find decent rental accommodation, and I was left sharing houses with friends, with an unreliable private landlord, a dreadful customer experience, and no value for money.

Roll on a decade and Manchester is thriving, as proved by the Time Out survey. The scale and pace of growth and development in this period has been transformational, with expanding city centre boundaries, a new skyline taking shape, new tram lines, a £1billion transformation of the Airport, and new communities thriving in previously under-utilised areas.

Manchester is now an established hub of economic activity and the de facto capital of the North. It is home to 80 of the FTSE 100 companies and some of the UK’s most exciting fast-growing tech, creative and digital companies. This activity is all fuelled by the excellent universities in the area, where more than 60% of their students continue to live and work in the city after graduation.

My experience of poor quality private rental accommodation is no longer good enough to attract talent to an aspiring global city. Today, highly skilled, innovative employees demand well-designed and affordably priced homes in which to live.

Manchester was an early adopter of the nascent build to rent sector, and this has proven to be a key ingredient to its recent success. The delivery of high-quality purpose-built rental accommodation to the market has enabled the city to support economic growth in established and emerging business sectors, such as business, finance, cultural, science and media, while also delivering its regeneration goals.

At Packaged Living, we have recently secured planning permission and the forward funding (to CDL Hospitality Trust) for one of our most recent projects, The Castings – a 25 storey, 352-unit build-to-rent scheme on Heyrod Street in Piccadilly East.  This deal highlights the global interest in Manchester’s BtR market and investors’ confidence in the continuing demand for rental housingin the city.

Manchester now has the critical mass of economic activity, knowledge, and the infrastructure to sustain further waves of BtR development over the next decade. There are now over 72,000 people living in the city centre, with this figure expected to increase to 100,000 people by 2024 – BtR will play a key role in meeting this housing need.

There is an air of confidence in the City. Despite the pandemic, over 7,000 new jobs were created in the City Centre over the last year alone. With the emergence of Mayfield, £1.5bn ID Manchester (an innovation district), and HS2, it is clear that more and more businesses will base themselves in the city, and this will only serve to underwrite the importance of Manchester’s BtR sector and increase the demand for well designed, purpose-built rental homes.