Leeds property: Mustard Wharf's pet friendly rental flats in the city centre South Bank regeneration
For most renters in Leeds, the thought of painting the walls or owning a pet is something they can only daydream about.
However, a new development in the city’s South Bank is aiming to change the game, by offering more flexibility and community for people who rent.
Mustard Wharf is a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments in Wharf Approach, with views overlooking the Leeds Liverpool Canal.
As well as beautifully designed and spacious apartments, the complex also boasts private balconies, a communal roof garden, an on-site gym, and two clubhouses complete with private dining rooms.
It also offers work lounges with broadband included in the rent, as well as a concierge service and freedom to decorate or have pets.
Mustard Wharf has been built by Legal & General (L&G) as part of its Build to Rent scheme.
This sees the company create purpose-built private rented residential homes, with L&G taking on the role of landlord, rather than private investors.
Head of Build to Rent at L&G, Dan Batterton, said: “It's a pretty simple age-old model, buy a house and rent it out, but the difference is that we're doing it on a massive scale.
“We've already got over 1000 apartments that we're renting out across the country and we are taking the rents that we earn from those apartments out and matching it up with pensions.
“A primary part of what we're trying to do is build homes. We have a huge national shortage of homes so we don't want to buy a home that already exists.
“We are building everything so that we can take that money that's tied up in people's pensions and use it to build homes, then the rent goes back in to pay the pensions.”
The scheme rents apartments across Manchester, Salford and Bristol.
Mustard Wharf is the first L&G site in Leeds and will be followed by the new development at Tower Works, which will also be a Built to Rent community.
Mr Batterton said: “We knew we wanted to invest in Leeds.
“Leeds is one of the biggest contributors to the economy out of all the cities in the UK, and there are a lot of reasons to live and work in Leeds.
“Tower Works was actually the original driver for us to look in the area and we’ve been consulting with the council for about four years, and have just managed to get to the point of being able to start construction on that site.
“That area just south of the station has traditionally been a bit unloved.
“Mustard Wharf was a car park. It wasn't providing anything really to the centre of Leeds, it was just allowing people somewhere to park polluting cars.
“So we still have a car park but we've now got accommodation for 500 people to live on that site.
“It is an area of regeneration with a fantastic heritage and it’s really exciting to be involved in bringing that area back to life.”
Although construction didn’t close during the pandemic, new measures to ensure safety did slow the completion of Mustard Wharf.
However, the majority of the first phase of apartments are occupied and the second and third phases are due to complete and go on the market within the next six weeks.
The L&G team hopes that once filed, the complex will become a community, in contrast to the typical, often isolating, high rise flats that usually dominate city centres.
Mr Batterton said: “Everybody that lives there will be renting but that does not mean it can't become a community in itself, where people want to stay for the long term.
“In our first scheme in Salford we started off running events like wine tasting nights, and virtual cooking classes or exercise classes, but I think we’ve learned now from experience that we have to create the space for the residents to create their own community.
“If we go and create it for them it's a bit contrived so in Mustard Wharf we have created space that is designed in a way that allows our residents to get together.
“How the community evolves will be down to the people that live there.”
He added: “Looking at a long term picture, we have already seen a change in the demographics of people who live in our schemes.
“We thought we would be filled with 20 to 30-year-olds who would eventually leave renting and buy, but we’re already seeing our average age is 31 and we've got families, newborn babies, and we’ve even had some home births.
“We've got retirees as well, which is not a market we thought we would have, but we've got an increasing number of retirees who have sold their homes and moved into the middle of the city because of the access to culture.
“We surveyed our first 1000 residents, and two-thirds of them said they would not buy a house, even if they could afford it.
“It wasn't a negative choice; they were renting because they wanted to.
“I think this is a really important shift - people are renting because it gives them flexibility.
“That must be a culture change, some of that is linked to it simply being impossible to get onto the housing ladder for a lot of people, but for others, they wouldn't do it even if they could afford it.”
Mr Batterton thinks this is partly due to the ‘access economy’ and people looking for a certain kind of life, rather than just a home.
He said: “We are now in an access economy - we pay for access to music, to Netflix, Spotify, whatever it is.
“We don't buy, we pay for the access, and that's the same thing with a lifestyle.
“We’re trying to offer a lifestyle that people can rent from us and they can live in a certain way.”
Mustard Wharf is available to rent now, with monthly rents ranging between £990 to £1945 PCM.
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