Exclusive developer Q&A: Ed Ellerington of Palmer Capital backed Packaged Living

Packaged Living, backed by Palmer Capital, are a bespoke Build to Rent (B2R) developer and operator at the forefront of the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Having formed last year they’re now looking to develop across the UK – with their first major project at the heart of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Corridor in Milton Keynes.

Ahead of their involvement in the Oxford Cambridge Corridor Development Conference on the 22nd January Founder Ed Ellerington has spoken exclusively to the event organiser Built Environment on the business, their MK development, their future plans and how you can get involved:

You officially founded Packaged Living last year with the backing of Palmer Capital. What opportunity did you see that Packaged Living could fulfil?

The BTR sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in UKRE. However, there has been a disconnect to date between the developers, investors and operators interests. By ensuring that we align those interests through our brand we believe we can create more viable schemes which create great places for people to live.

There has been a big rise in the volume of Build to Rent (B2R) developments popping up across the UK. What are the attractions for developers and investors in B2R?

With the UK’s population projected to grow by 5.4% to c.70m over the next ten years and household sizes reducing, resulting in a requirement for an extra 2m households over the same period, the UK’s requirement to build sustainable housing stock is paramount.

When the above is combined with the fact that the current level of supply is just under 150,000 units per annum, it is apparent there is a fundamental undersupply of residential stock. BTR offers a real solution and is being eagerly pursued by investors and developers alike.

From an investment perspective returns are stable, well diversified with low volatility and limited correlation with other major investment classes. There is a very compelling investment story for this sector and its extremely exciting to be part of it.

The proposed infrastructure between Oxford and Cambridge is set to drive new development, regeneration and boost the regional economy – but that is also set to see the need to create 1m new homes by 2050. Is B2R the answer, or just part of the solution?

There is never a silver bullet, but BTR has a significant part to play. The OxCam corridor will only thrive if there is suitable, affordable accommodation available. If we want to attract the brightest talent then we need to prepare communities which are desirable to live in. BTR plays a vital role in making these communities come to life. It is often the foundation upon which wider mixed use regeneration can grow.

You spoke at our West Yorkshire Development Conference back in September when the brand first launched. What’s happened since then?

We have had a very exciting 3 months. Our first scheme of 300 units in MK has been designed and submitted for planning and we are actively in discussions regarding a couple of other purchases this year. The brand and proposition has been really well received both by the market but also local stakeholders in the communities in which we are working and we are really looking forward to growing the business in 2019.

Why was Milton Keynes such a draw for your first major development?

Milton Keynes fits the profile of a BTR city perfectly. It has fantastic transport links, it has a young and vibrant population and it has an appetite to grow with the recent arrival of Santander and proposal for its new university.

The term ‘Smart City’ is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. How are you ensuring your developments are integrated with technological innovations to create a new and sustainable generation of homes?

‘Home’ technology has advanced rapidly over the past couple of years and the use of SMART lights, meters, etc are becoming a standard requisite when designing buildings generally. The key when we develop is to ensure flexibility. We don’t know what the trends will be in the next 10 – 20 years and we need to ensure that our buildings can adapt to changing work:life balances and can link effectively into more technologically advanced property management systems. The next step for us is to ensure that our buildings are fully integrated into a town or city’s infrastructure. MK provides us with a fantastic opportunity to work with the city and levy on ideas such as the my bus initiative which in turn has a positive impact in reducing the number of cars and pollution in the city centre.

You’re actively looking for further sites to develop across the UK. What criteria are you working to for potential projects?

0.5 acre+ sites with or without planning in locations which have the following;

  • A university
  • A training college
  • More than one large employer
  • The local transport network
  • A national transport hub
  • Major road arteries & provision for pavement frontage

Ed Ellerington is speaking with other major developers in Milton Keynes at the Built Environment Oxford Cambridge Corridor Development Conference on the 22nd January. Other developers joining Ed on the panel include; Urbansplash, Varsity Town Planning, O&H Properties, Darlow Homes, SmithsonHill, Cranfield University, Homes England and Milton Keynes Development Partnership.

Original article written by Built Environment, published January 2019.