Making the Most of Build to Rent: Aberfeldy Village visit

With a delivery target of over 3,900 homes per annum to 2025, LB Tower Hamlets has an ambitious housing growth strategy, of which Build to Rent is a key component.

On 6 July, Future of London organised a field trip to Aberfeldy Village, a major estate regeneration scheme in Poplar, with a significant Build to Rent element. With the majority of rental units fully let, the Build to Rent phase has accelerated the overall regeneration programme, as well as helping to foster a more mixed community in a deprived area of London.

Housing Strategy: Tower Hamlets

Alison Thomas, Head of Housing Strategy, Partnerships & Affordable Housing, Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets has been the fastest growing borough in London over the past 10 years and its population is expected to increase by a further 20% by 2023. While the borough has an ambitious social housing programme, the PRS is taking much of the strain, and has grown considerably, from 18% of households in 2003 to 39% in 2014.

In response to this, the PRS will be prioritised in the new Tower Hamlets housing strategy, due to be adopted later this year, and the borough has employed new staff with a PRS brief. The development of high-quality Build to Rent accommodation is a significant part of this strategy; Tower Hamlets currently has the second highest Build to Rent pipeline in London; its 14 Build to Rent schemes in existence or in the pipeline will provide around 2,300 homes by 2025.

Aberfeldy Village

Aberfeldy Village

Aberfeldy Village is a key development site within LB Tower Hamlets’ Poplar Riverside Housing Zone. This large-scale estate regeneration comprises six phases, with full completion estimated February 2020. The scheme is a joint venture between Poplar HARCA and Willmott Dixon, with architects Levitt Bernstein and institutional investors M&G.

Willmott Dixon’s specialist company be:here are developers and on-site managers of the PRS units (phase 1B, completed Q2 2015), comprising 158 of the total c.1,200 homes. The PRS block is the first new-build private rental scheme to attract institutional investment and arguably the first purpose-built private rental scheme to be let in the Capital.

Neal Hunt, Director of Development,  Poplar HARCA

Increasing the supply of mid-market private rent and sale homes helps to create a mixed and balanced community at Aberfeldy, which benefits the residents and local economy.

Build to Rent is a valuable component of large-scale regeneration schemes, with the capacity to speed up the delivery process by leveraging an alternative mix of funding. Having M&G on board as investor for the Build to Rent element enabled immediate delivery of phase 1, and brought forward phase 2.

Neal explained the delivery structure. Institutional investors M&G were granted a 250-year head lease and fund the build direct with Willmott Dixon’s specialist company be:here. Poplar HARCA took on a 30-year sub-lease. Around 75% of the rental income is paid to M&G, leaving 25% for Poplar HARCA to manage lettings, voids and maintenance.

Simon Chatfield, Senior Director,  be:here

be:here PRS block

Be:here is one of the first developer operators to let a Build to Rent scheme, and has three more developments in the pipeline. The company’s approach has been informed by extensive investor and consumer research. High-quality management and maintenance, sustainability and a strong community ethos were all found to be essential to both parties.

The rental homes at Aberfeldy are in almost full occupancy by residents with an average income of £39Kpa and average age of 28. Tenants have been overwhelmingly positive about their accommodation and service, due in no small part to be:here’s management strategy, which includes an on-site property manager who responds to tenant issues swiftly.

Designing for rent

Build to Rent unit

The rental units have been designed very differently from the sale ones, which was confirmed by a comparison viewing. The units for rent have a ‘dumbbell’ layout with central, open-plan communal space and bedrooms of equal size on either side, both with en-suite bathrooms, one of which can function as a communal bathroom when required through dual ‘Jack and Jill’ access. Materials, furniture and fittings are hard-wearing and easy to clean. Additional storage lockers are available to rent; other amenities include parcel collection, on-site dry cleaning and a coffee machine. Additional communal areas and amenities, such as an on-site gym, are being considered, though the additional space required is limited on this site.

Future of London’s next Build to Rent field trip is 17th August to LB Barking & Dagenham. To register interest, please email