Build-to-rent trend continuing to spread across Belfast

The Residence: The 19-storey build-to-rent tower next to the M3 Lagan Bridge was approved by Belfast City Council last month
The Residence: The 19-storey build-to-rent tower next to the M3 Lagan Bridge was approved by Belfast City Council last month

SOUTH Bank Square’s proposal for a £45 million ‘build-to-rent’ scheme on Great Victoria Street is just the latest example in a growing development trend across Belfast.

The term relates to a new build residential developments, specifically constructed for the rental sector. They can offer long-term apartment tenancies and often include communal spaces and an on-site manager.

But they typically come with a premium price tag.

The trend is popular among pension and investment trusts for the obvious secure long-term returns on investments.

But ‘build-to-rent’ has also attracted criticism for developing high-price rentals, aimed at a narrow group of younger well-paid professionals.

READ MORE: Derry developer announces latest high rise build-to-rent proposal for Belfast

The build-to-rent sector is already huge in the US. Projects have exploded across London and increasingly in Dublin in recent years.

In 2019, turnover in the Republic’s build-to-rent sector more than doubled to €2.54 billion (£2.3bn).

But there has already been a backlash in Dublin. In a bill proposing the ban of co-living developments, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has also proposed stricter standards for build-to-rent schemes.

But Belfast it seems, has already climbed aboard the build-to-rent bandwagon.

In November, Belfast City Council approved a 19-storey build-to-rent tower next to the M3 Lagan Bridge. The £25m 151-unit project is backed by Vinder Capital and Aldgate Developments.

The city’s biggest landlord, Belfast Harbour, is also planning a 250-unit build-to-rent scheme along the city side of the Lagan Bridge.

Just a stone’s throw from South Bank Square’s site, high profile developer Barry Gilligan’s Glenaplin Street Ltd is moving ahead with a £40m proposal between Great Victoria Street and Sandy Row.

It’s expected to involve around 277 build-to-rent apartments across 11 storeys.

A number of other schemes are making their way through the planning process.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the developers. Last month Belfast City Council’s planning committee voted against the recommendation of officials, refusing permission to Olympian Homes for a 270-unit build-to-rent project on the former UTV site, Havelock House.

However, that rejection was primarily focused on conservation grounds, rather than around the issue of build-to-rent.