Can Build to Rent schemes position Cardiff for the future?

Build to Rent towers are rising across Cardiff’s city centre to accommodate today’s generation of young professionals looking for an urban lifestyle

May 31, 2019

With its well-respected universities and its growing business scene, Cardiff has a strong appeal for students and young professionals – and now residential developers are following suit.

Amid a growing interest in city centre living, the Welsh capital is seeing numerous Build to Rent schemes take shape, offering high-end apartments with hotel-style amenities such as concierges and gyms.

“I think this generation is more comfortable with renting than previous generations,” says Justin Millett, JLL UK director capital markets. “Build to Rent offers millennials the option of good quality housing and the prospect of secure tenancies while also being located close to where they work and socialise.”

Cardiff’s skyline is adapting to reflect the growth of the living sector, with Bridge Street Exchange, providing student accommodation which rises 27-storeys and Fusion students are close to finishing their 26-storey Zenith scheme.

IM Properties has announced plans for over 300 Build to Rent apartments in a 23-storey tower offering a restaurant, bar and retail and Dumballs Road is set to offer a BTR development with a gym and rooftop terrace. Meanwhile, permission has also been granted for over 300 flats in a tower at Central Square.

“The focus is very much on the city centre and because Cardiff is quite a compact city centre we are going to see quite a lot of high-rise buildings being built to meet demand,” says Millett. “Over the next five years we are going to see a major transformation of Cardiff’s skyline to meet the needs of the growing population and business community.”

Research from Lloyds Bank reveals that Cardiff’s population is set to rise by 26 percent in the next 20 years, making it one of the UK’s fastest growing cities.

Changing city workplace

Businesses are also moving in. Cardiff has nearly 70,000 students across the city’s three universities and this talent stream is helping to persuade media giants like the BBC to invest in new city centre offices.

Last year BBC Wales received the keys to its new £100 million HQ, part of the Central Square development, which also includes office and retail space. TV dramas like Dr Who and Casualty have been filmed in the city, adding to its pull for young professionals and creatives.

The city’s tech scene is also flourishing with the support of the Development Bank of Wales, according to Tech Nation. It is home to Fintech businesses including Amplyfi, Delio, Bipsync and Wealthify.

“The diversifying economy, with its focus on financial and professional services, and its growing creative cluster, combined with the local graduate talent is a key driver for this increased interest in the city centre,” says Millett. “Developers and landlords are taking note of growing demand for quality workplaces.”

The new Central Square development, outside the railway station, has also attracted firms like MotoNovo Finance, Blake Morgan and Hugh James, while HMRC will move 4,000 people into its new HQ in 2020. Capital Quarter, an office and living development, is continuing to draw in public and private sector tenants.

The city is also well-connected. London is a two-hour rail journey away and this will be reducing by 15 minutes with rail electrification due to complete later this year. In addition, the South Wales Metro scheme is improving links between the city, the South Wales valleys and beyond.

Modern city centre living

Regeneration is further improving the city’s lifestyle offer. The redevelopment of the Brains Brewery site at Central Quay will bring more bars and restaurants to the city’s already bustling nightlife along with office space and residential apartments.

Plans are also afoot for a market for independent retailers, complementing the mix of chain retailers in its main shopping streets and the St David’s Shopping Centre and the independent stores in its Victorian arcades.

“These projects will help improve Cardiff’s image further and help provide all the amenities that both millennials and retirees are after as part of modern, urban living,” says Millett. It’s all part of what needs to happen for Cardiff’s long-term success.

“It’s essential that Cardiff does everything it can to keep the graduates it’s producing to fuel its local economy. Employers are looking for the best talent and it’s essential to create vibrant environments to retain that talent, especially with other regional cities also investing heavily in regeneration projects.”

In turn, it bodes well for ensuring demand for Build to Rent schemes for years to come.

“Today’s renters want quality homes, a sense of community and amenities on their doorstep,” concludes Millett. “The new BTR schemes in Cardiff will deliver that.”