Northern Ireland

Belfast 'built-to-rent' apartment block announced

An artistic impression of the finished apartment building Image copyright Feilden clegg bradley studios
Image caption An artist's impression of the completed project on Academy Street

A developer has announced plans for Belfast's first large scale "build-to-rent" housing scheme.

It is a model where flats are built purely for private rent, with the building owned by a large investor.

It has been encouraged by the UK government as a way to increase the supply of rental properties.

Lacuna Developments and Watkin Jones are planning to develop a 19-storey block of flats on Academy Street, close to the Ulster University campus.

The same firms have been among the biggest developers of purpose-built student accommodation in the city, selling their student schemes to major institutional investors.

The Academy Street scheme would consist of about 120 flats run by a management company.

Image copyright Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Image caption The proposed scheme is the first of its kind in the Northern Ireland rental market

Mark Watkin Jones of Watkin Jones said build-to-rent was a "proven model" in other major UK and Irish cities.

Anthony Best, Director of Lacuna Developments, said Belfast has one of the lowest city centre populations in Europe.

He said the scheme would contribute to the council's target of increasing the number of city centre residents.

Lacuna and Watkin Jones will now undertake a 12-week pre-planning application community consultation.

A public exhibition will be held later at The Arc (Arts Resource Centre) on Donegall Street Place.

Official figures suggest almost a fifth of of households in Northern Ireland live in the private rented sector.

It is essentially a cottage industry dominated by thousands of individual landlords renting out a single property.

So this new development, with a single professional landlord owning 100 or more flats in one block, would be a big change.

However, it will only be a microscopic section of a market which consists of more than 125,000 dwellings.

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