Bus, directions, REalyse

LIV Consult’s Chloe Factor has carried out analysis to help provide guidance to developers on the matter of Build-To-Rent (BTR) schemes including parking provisions. She focuses on an issue that is important to balance satisfying resident demand with cost effective construction.

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Parking provision remains a key design consideration for developers, despite limited research conducted about car parking inclusion in Build-To-Rent schemes. Context is critical – primarily location and the relative demand. 

The expectations of renters vary by location across the UK, with an increasing focus on delivering a first-class renting experience through on-site “resident services” teams and private resident amenities. This differentiates BTR developments from their traditional Buy-To-Let counterparts, particularly in regional cities. 

One thing that remains consistent across all sub-tenures of residential accommodation is the requirement for car parking. The scale of how much parking is required – and can be provided – is mainly location dependent, influenced by factors such as: 

  1. The specific planning policy requirements of the Local Authority
  2. The scheme’s micro-location and transport connectivity
  3. The individual occupier’s preferences and circumstance

All of the above are relevant to this discussion, although the changing attitudes towards car ownership, not just in the UK but globally, introduce a further variable that is difficult to quantify. A BTR development is intended to be a long-term investment that should appeal to residents for years into the future, placing increasing importance on the decisions we make today. Provide too much parking and you have wasted (significant) sums of money, whereas too little and the potential pool of occupiers could shrink exponentially; whilst underwriting rental income for parking is increasingly important for overall viability. 

At LIV Consult, a frequent challenge we face is underwriting the level of car parking demand for a new scheme, often against the background of outdated planning policy and private agendas of elected planning committee members. 

We can expect that car ownership would be greater in areas where transport is either less reliable or accessible. However, for young people wanting to experience renting in a vibrant city centre, there is a cost sensitivity. The sacrifice of not owning a car if one is not necessarily needed creates more exciting uses for disposable income on entertainment, leisure and lifestyle.

Through exploring seven operational BTR schemes across multiple locations in the UK, we have aimed to address the question – how important has car parking been to BTR development residents?

When prospective residents have made an enquiry about an apartment, one of the initial questions they were asked is whether they require a car parking space. The BTR schemes we have analysed range from 50 to 250 units and have been divided into three subcategories based on their location:

  1. City Core (high-density urban location)
  2. Suburban (out-of-town location)
  3. Low Density City (somewhere in between the above)

City Core

Four of the seven schemes are found within ‘City Core’ areas. 

Across all schemes, an average of only 14% of potential residents said they would need parking at these schemes. 

In the UK, renting is becoming a tenure of choice – especially for young people. BTR presents the opportunity for this transient demographic to live in exciting urban centres, in areas where they are unable to buy. Each of these schemes are situated only a short walk from their nearest public transport hub. 

BTR Scheme Walking Distance to Public Transport
1. 5 minutes
2. 12 minutes
3. < 2 minutes
4. < 2 minutes
5. 5 minutes

Suburban

In addition to the shiny high-rise BTR schemes found in city cores, developers and investors alike are striving to deliver high-quality schemes in suburban, garden-style communities, such as the developments we have seen in the US multi-family market.

Out of the seven BTR schemes analysed, just one of the schemes is located in an area that we considered to be suburban. This scheme represents a large, low-density out-of-town location, that has appealed to a wide age range and demographic and has been particularly accommodating to families. Generally, families gravitate towards living in suburban developments where infrastructure such as schools are supportive of their needs. Families with young children living in a suburban location are more likely to require a car than the individual young professional renter in a city centre. 

BTR Scheme Walking Distance to Public Transport
6. 27 minutes

Within the one suburban development, a significant 83% of enquiries in 2019 requested a car parking space.

The scheme is well-connected by road and is situated on a direct bus route into the nearest town centres. Otherwise, it’s around a 30 minute walk to the nearest train station. With this in mind, the high demand for car parking by prospective residents shows that this is a location where the use of a car to get around is almost essential.

Low density or a smaller city “somewhere in between”

Finally, the “in-between” BTR scheme is located in a small, low-rise and walkable city. Interestingly, there was almost a 50:50 interest in parking, whereby slightly more residents opted out. 

BTR Scheme Walking Distance to Public Transport
7. 10 minutes

While this location does have its own employment base and concentration of leisure and retail facilities, it is considered to be a feeder town to one of the UK’s major cities. The site is less than a 20 minute walk to its small city centre and local employment. Additionally, it is likely only a 10 minute walk to its nearest train station, which offers direct services into a major city in less than 15 minutes. 

Conclusion

The BTR schemes analysed demonstrate that the demand for car parking is greatly location dependent. 

The shift away from private car ownership, particularly in dense urban locations, is largely due to a transformation in how people are moving around cities. It reflects certain attitudes towards the personal need for a car, whether it is for practical, financial or environmental reasons. In the future, car ownership may change as a result of environmental legislation, such as new congestion zones in cities, or technological advancements such as autonomous vehicles.

Where an increased number of people are choosing to live in city centres where employment and local amenities are within walking distance, people are progressively able to go about their day without owning a car. 

Whilst the UK BTR sector is still in its infancy, there is an opportunity to increase a great level of sophistication in scheme design, as well as to manage construction cost, local planning policy and occupier demand. One way to achieve this is through providing alternatives to car parking through electric car sharing clubs and secure/easily accessible bicycle storage. In addition, where there is a known technology advancement such as electric vehicles, there is the opportunity to design schemes for their anticipated future occupier. 


Chloe Factor joined LIV Consult as a Build-to-Rent Research Analyst back in 2017 after studying Geography at the University of Leeds. London-born Chloe was very happy to stay in Leeds to grow with the company. She has since used her experience to help shape the company’s research and reporting methods to provide specialist BTR consultancy on a number of exciting developments across the UK and Ireland. 

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