How this build-to-rent scheme in Leeds is raising the bar for city living

From threadbare carpets and shabby furniture to multi-functional sofas and onsite maintenance staff, the standard of rented accommodation has reached a new level.

Johnny Caddick, managing director of Moda Living, at SOYO in Leeds.

The build-to-rent sector is growing across the UK and residential blocks aren’t just a place to eat and sleep any more.

Build-to-rent apartments are run like five-star hotels with a team of staff on site, a 24-hour concierge and an app that runs day-to-day life in the building, such as booking the co-working space and managing parcel deliveries.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

There’s entertainment too - from pasta making classes to cinema nights and everything in between.

Proposed rooftop terrace at New York Square

Developers in Leeds are embracing the North American concept, which is transforming city centre living across the UK. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Crane Survey, last year three out of four new start residential developments in the city were for the build-to-rent sector.

These projects are creating new neighbourhoods, with green spaces and shops, bars and restaurants, which are expected to fuel further demand for city centre living.

Caddick Developments’ £300m regeneration project in the former Quarry Hill car park is one of Leeds’ biggest build-to-rent schemes currently on site.

The project, named SOYO, includes two 15 and 16-storey build-to-rent towers, being delivered by the group’s private rental sector arm Moda Living, and another residential block to be added in a later phase.

The Lexington - Moda Living's build-to-rent scheme in Liverpool.

Caddick also plans to build a new hotel, offices, restaurants and bars as part of the project, alongside creating green public spaces.

The £96m construction of the first two apartment blocks, known as New York Square, peaked this week as the build reached its tallest point of 16 storeys.

They include 515 apartments - from studios and two-bed sharers to three bed family units,

Moda Living’s 466-bed Angel Gardens scheme in Manchester is the template. It also has developments in York, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Hove in Sussex in the pipeline - 7,500 homes in total.

The Lexington - Moda Living's build-to-rent scheme in Liverpool.

Johnny Caddick, managing director of Moda Living, told The Yorkshire Post that the firm had learned lessons from its first project.

“We’re seeing a lot more people working from home now so we’re adapting our spaces to make them more flexible,” he said. “Rather than a sofa being something you just sit on, it can be somewhere you can work from too.”

Health and wellbeing is an important part of Moda’s ethos. Every development has a gym and a rooftop terrace. In Manchester there is also a rooftop football pitch and Birmingham will have a 200-metre podium running track.

At the start of the pandemic Moda offered online anxiety workshops to residents as well as virtual social activities.

Moda has learned from the student market’s evolution but its buildings are not just a place for graduates and young professionals. Residents in Manchester range from two to 80 years old. “The apartments are designed to be age agnostic, which builds a proper community,” Mr Caddick said.

Reservations for New York Square open at the end of this year. Rents haven’t been revealed yet but are likely to be similar to Liverpool where studio rents start from £800 per calendar month, including wifi, gym and shared amenities.

Mr Caddick said: “The level of customer service and care is very different to the majority of individually-owned apartments and houses and the security of tenure is a major feature of our buildings. Ultimately the power is with the customer. We need full buildings and they will vote with their feet.”