Get Living is expanding its horizons beyond London, where it is best known as the owner and manager of the 1,439 homes at East Village in Stratford - one of the first and most recognisable rental developments in the UK.
A fortnight ago, the company, which is backed by clients of Delancey, Qatari Diar and APG, bought a site in Glasgow to develop a £200m, 600-home scheme that will be its first outside London and the largest build-to-rent (BTR) scheme in Scotland by unit number.
The Glasgow deal marks the start of a major expansion push into the regions by Get Living.
Deputy chairman Rick de Blaby reveals that the company is looking for five to 10 more sites in major UK regional cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, where Property Week revealed last week that Get Living was eyeing a Taylor Wimpey-owned site for a
600-unit BTR scheme.
“Our mission is to be the class-leading exemplar of this sector and that means we’ve got to develop and own neighbourhoods in London, in what you might call the principal commuter areas for London, and then in a handful of major cities around the UK,” he says.
De Blaby believes large regional cities will follow the same trends that the market hasseen in London.
“That shift of living in urban areas you see everywhere and there’s a shortage of good-quality homes,” he says. “So the numbers might be different out in the regions, but I think the trends and the dynamic of it are pretty similar.”
In Glasgow, de Blaby sees an opportunity to enter a market that has not attracted as much attention as some other UK cities. He is not put off by the perennial threat of Scottish independence and comparatively low rents.
“Glasgow is the third-biggest city in the UK,” he says. “It’s got a stellar list of employers and a very high level of employment.
“It has the same housing dynamics that we see in many other cities. The fact that it’s a fairly immature market as far as large-scale residential investment is concerned is a positive for us.”
De Blaby hopes to buy three more sites across the UK before the end of the year and says he is only interested in land that can take developments of more than 500 units.
He adds that Get Living will centralise some of its financial services, but most of the work on the ground will be done by regional teams - one for each city it invests in. There will be a Get Living Glasgow to add to its famous Get Living London brand, for example, says de Blaby.
The new sites will add to Get Living’s current pipeline of 4,000 homes that it has under construction and in planning at East Village and Elephant & Castle.
“There’s no hard and fast target,” says de Blaby. “Our portfolio is probably north of £1bn now and it would be nice to at least double that. We can’t really go and buy this stuff. We have to get a site and build it and that just takes time.”
And money - the company’s plans require a lot of financial firepower. Fortunately Get Living can count on investors APG, Qatari Diar and Delancey. “There’s no set limit [on investment],” he says.
With such backing and bold ambitions, there is no reason why de Blaby can’t realise his aspirations of being a “genuine leader” in the market within the next four years. But in a sector as buoyant as BTR, he could well have competition.