Wembley developer calls for ‘vibrant rental sector’

The Conservatives’ focus on home ownership is unlikely to solve the UK’s housing crisis, according to Angus Dodd, chief executive of housing developer Quintain.

Speaking at yesterday’s FT Future of Construction summit in London, Dodd said the UK needed a “vibrant rental sector” to cater for demand from those for whom buying a home is an unaffordable goal.

Noting the stated aim of the Tory’s manifesto – published yesterday – of having more people own their own homes, despite Theresa May’s government warming to the rental sector in recent months, Dodd said home ownership was simply not possible for everyone. “There is a deep demand for rented accommodation. Most people [currently] can’t afford to buy.”

Dodd, whose company is currently developing the UK’s largest build-to-rent housing development around Wembley stadium, said compared with the US and Germany, where rented accommodation was around 50% of housing stock, in the UK was lagging far behind.

“The rental sector is something we can be proud of. At Wembley we’re building six £100m projects and we’ll have 3,000 homes by the end of 2017. We’re seeing occupation beyond the millennial generation. Average occupancy age is 28, but that is spread across 19 to 63, while the average annual salary is £40,000.”

The Conservative manifesto, published yesterday, acknowledged that housing – whether to own or to rent – had become “increasingly unaffordable” for many people. In a section devoted to housing, entitled ‘Homes For All’, the manifesto said: “If we do not put this right, we will be unable to extend the promise of a decent home, let alone ownership, to the millions who deserve it.”

Dodd added that he had been against Brexit. “I think it was a bad thing to do and we should have stayed in. Yes, London will thrive and grow in all sorts of ways; it’s not just about what the City does, it’s about bars and parks, theatres and restaurants and football clubs. And the investment market hasn’t collapsed. But Brexit certainly hasn’t helped matters – and a collapse could still come.

Quintain would keep building, Dodd said, “but the housing crisis won’t go away because we’ve left the European Union. We want our EU workers to be able to stay. It is what it is, we’ll get through it, and we won’t change our strategy at Wembley because of Brexit. But we shouldn’t have done it.”

Also speaking at the FT summit, Rob Perrins, chief executive at Berkeley Group, took a swipe at the recently introduced apprenticeship levy. “Our industry won’t benefit from it, others will. It’s an additional tax. It lacks clarity and won’t add one more apprentice.”