In 1991, the population of Belfast city centre was half what it was in 1926 but, since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, it has become one of the fastest-growing economies of the thirty largest cities in the UK over the last decade, while having one of the lowest city centre populations in Europe.
In a proposed Â£12 million scheme that will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, developers have announced plans to build Belfast’s first large scale â€˜build-to-rentâ€™ housing scheme on a site at Academy Street.
The Academy Street site located near the Ulster University campus, is on the site of an existing city centre car park. A twelve-week pre-planning application consultation and public exhibition is now underway.
The developers, Lacuna Developments of Holywood and Watkin Jones of Wales, are among the biggest developers of purpose-built flats for students, and have sold previous schemes to institutional investors. Currently around 20 per cent of households in Northern Ireland live in the private rented sector, with most accommodation owned by single-property landlords.
The 19 storey development will provide 120 flats built for private rent in a building owned by a large property investor. The developers say that this would be the first time a single professional landlord would own more than 100 flats.
The flats will provide secure long-term tenancies to include a security service as well as a concierge and cafe.
Two-thirds of jobs in Belfast are located in and around the city centre, and the development would contribute to Belfast City Council’s target of increasing the resident population by 70,000 by 2035.
Over 40 per cent of the population are under the age of 30, and the flats will be aimed at those in their 20-30s who are struggling to get on the property ladder, particularly young, skilled, and economically mobile professionals.
The British Property Federation estimates that across the UK there are 83,650 build-to-rent units, either completed or planned – over half of which are in London.
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