Build-to-Rent’s Global Model Gets Aussie Inspiration


Australia may be something of a latecomer to the build-to-rent game compared to other countries but its homegrown projects for the emerging asset class are shaping up as world leaders.

The local knowledge of architects and developers is bringing a new approach to the evolution of the institutionally-owned and managed rental communities.

It focuses not just on the communities within the buildings but also surrounding them.

“Some of the projects being developed at the moment are very much world-leading in terms of design and placemaking,” Scott Ponton, managing director of Brisbane-based build-to-rent specialist Arklife, said.

“It’s the way in which we are engaging with the broader community and seeking not just to merge with it but also make it a better place.”

But Ponton, who will take part in The Urban Developer’s Build-to-Rent vSummit on August 26, is the first to admit Australia’s burgeoning build-to-rent sector also has the benefit of taking cues from projects in the more established markets around the world.

“There’s great learnings from overseas that we can apply locally,” he said.

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“Equally there’s probably some learnings that overseas players can learn from the way we do things here. I think it works both ways.”

He cites the customer service-centric approach born out of the US and UK markets.

“We’re picking up that lead and running with it and adopting it with a sort of Australian sense to what we do here.

“So, with these international references we are applying similar fundamentals to the assets we’re developing but each asset has got to be designed and delivered for the community that it sits within and the target market that we’re trying to attract.

“And while the demographics are similar to those overseas there are slight nuances here that don’t exist elsewhere.”

Arklife is making its debut into the fledgling local sector with two purpose-built build-to-rent developments in Brisbane.

Its 12-storey Robertson Lane community comprising 89 apartments in inner-city Fortitude Valley’s James Street precinct will reach completion next month.

Construction on its second build-to-rent project—Cordelia, a 30-level tower with 265 apartments—in South Brisbane began in May.

The projects have a combined end value of $260 million and the latter is the first to be backed by Qualitas’ $1-billion build-to-rent impact debt fund.

▲ Robertson Lane will comprise 89 build-to-rent units above three basement levels in Fortitude Valley. Image: Rothelowman
▲ Robertson Lane will comprise 89 build-to-rent units above three basement levels in Fortitude Valley. Image: Rothelowman

“Our product is not just the building, it’s also the way we manage it and engage with our customers [renters],” Ponton said.

“Our view around differentiation is going to be the people.

“Everyone can copy aspects of design and amenities and facilities but, at the end of the day, the differentiation is going to be how you run these communities and the character of the buildings themselves through the people that run them … in that way, it’s very similar to a hotel experience.”

In The Urban Developer’s recent online build-to-rent masterclass, Fender Katsalidis director James Pearce said many aspects of strategic hotel thinking can be applied to the build-to-rent design and development process.

“What is it that differentiates one hotel experience from the other? We think that strategic thinking around the hotel [offering] is very relevant to build-to-rent,” he said.

“Our build-to-rent clients are looking to build communities and develop brands. They want buildings that will help them nurture those communities and be great ambassadors for that brand.

“So, these buildings need to provide more than benchmark functionality, they need to have a character and a spirit that engages with their customers.”

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