API grant focuses on reusing urban land stock for BTR

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THE Australian Property Institute has awarded University of Melbourne researchers an Australian Property Research and Education Fund (APREF) grant to consider reusing land in inner and middle suburbs for decentralised build-to-rent developments.

The inaugural $60,000 round of APREF grants invited research proposals across five defined topics including adaptive sustainable land use and urban densification.

Jyoti Shukla, from the University of Melbourne, submitted the successful research proposal alongside two other colleagues and said the research will focus on how underutilised urban land stock can be reused for decentralised build-to-rent developments in inner and middle suburbs.

“Alongside encouraging urban densification, this project proposes solutions to the problems of reducing housing affordability, changing households’ preferences towards renting and living closer to work and transit locations, and the lack of long-term rental housing options through the introduction of a mixed and single use build-to-rent housing model that is developable on relatively smaller urban infill sites,” Shukla said.

API CEO Amelia Hodge said the research would aid the professional development of the property industry and enable the industry body to take the lead on advocating for housing affordability solutions and standards which can be applied by the profession.

“Housing affordability and build-to-rent developments are top of mind for government policymakers at the moment.

“We want to advocate for the best outcome and better insight into how Australians can benefit from these proposals will enable our industry to continue supporting the Australian economy and jobs,” Hodge said. “After all, property is the largest industry in Australia.”

Earlier this year the BTR sector surpassed a major milestone. It was only three years ago when four industry leaders speaking at the Australian Property Institute conference said the BTR market could be a real game changer. Since that time, there are 11,000 units across more than 30 projects, with the market accelerating over the past 12 months.

An additional pipeline of over 10,000 units plus is currently in due diligence. Offshore institutional investors funding including private equity, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and insurance groups, accounts for over 50% of the total pipeline, signalling appeal of the asset class’ stable cash flows to global investors in a low yield environment.

This week property giant Mirvac and Milieu lodged town planning application for a 500-unit BTR project in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Brunswick, whilst Singapore-backed Frasers Property Australia is keen to expand in the sector, after securing its first BTR project in Brisbane last month.

A recent report by law firm Allen and Urbis found the sector could contribute $2.9 billion to the economy and create thousands of jobs each year. Research found the initial delivery of 10,000 units has supported an average of 3,500 construction jobs.

Increasing that figure to 50,000 apartments, equating to about a third of the inner-city pipeline on the eastern seaboard, could support 19,000 jobs per year during the construction phase alone, as well as an average of $2.9 billion in gross value added.

APREF Chair Bruce Billson said the fund’s investment in research was so important as government and industry considers what a COVID-19 recovery looks like for Australia.

“2020 has made industry take stock and consider what their profession will look like in five, ten or twenty years and that’s what the APREF board has been looking at for the property sector.

“We need this investment of funds into property research to make sure we’re prepared on behalf of the 1.4 million Australians working across the property sector. APREF represents a considerable injection of new, ongoing research funding which has been led by industry and our members.” Billson said.

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