Interview with Stephanie Barbabosa, Head of Build to Rent at Lendlease
28 July 2023
NHBC is proud to support the house-building industry. Our purpose is to raise standards by championing high-quality homes and NHBC is also invested in the future of this industry and works to understand the innovative ways it is evolving to meet consumer demand.
This includes the ongoing requirement for more homes, but also includes ways consumer needs are changing and how new models may work to adapt to them. Build to Rent (BTR), property developments designed and built with the intention of appealing to the rental market rather than home ownership, is still a relatively new term in the UK, but is a rapidly growing sector that offers residents new and exciting options.
Niki Kyriacou, NHBC’s Sector Lead for Build to Rent spoke with Stephanie Barbabosa, Head of Build to Rent - International Operations at Lendlease to discuss Elephant Park, Lendlease’s flagship development in London, and the future for BTR.
- What is it about BTR that you find most interesting?
I’m lucky to have been working in Build to Rent for some time now and I still find it fascinating as it touches upon so many different intelligences and skill sets. Every day is different, ranging from the viability of an investment deal to the design of the building and all the little bits of asset operations (facilities, marketing, resident relations, event planning and partnerships that benefit our residents) that result in the success of a community.
It’s exciting to me because you never know what will happen, but everything you do is about building a community and that ties into the mission of Lendlease. Thriving communities are made up of people, not just buildings, so whether it’s our investors, our residents or our employees, people are our purpose.
- How did you become Head of Build to Rent at Lendlease here in the UK?
I started my career in California and thanks to my 30 years’ experience across the US, I was offered the London-based role which was a great opportunity to bring all that experience and ideas into this market. I was involved from an early stage with our BTR (known as ‘multi-family’ in the US) at Elephant Park and was able to add insight into some living and design elements. It was a fantastic opportunity to widen my knowledge and learn what was important to renters this side of the pond and I’m proud to say I think we have delivered that at Elephant Park.
- It sounds like design was an essential part of the success of Elephant Park, how did you influence it?
It was absolutely key as it all starts with good design, giving residents everything you think they will need to create a home and want to stay with us for years, and ensure the value of the asset is futureproofed. Something as simple as extra storage or USB outlets can really make the difference. Our amenities have been a big hit as well. At Park Central West we installed a 112 square meter co-working lounge long before the pandemic when working from home became more prevalent in the UK. It’s an exceptionally popular amenity we brought over from the US where working from home has been common for years.
We’ve also found people appreciate other design elements like all our homes having a balcony. This is a standard provision for Lendlease apartments (for sale or rent), not a result of Covid. Again, it comes back to understanding what residents want and then integrating it.
- You mentioned the co-working space, how did you decide on which amenities to offer?
Research is key, by understanding people’s wants and needs, we were able to get the right mix. We offer practical service-led aspects such as a 24-hour maintenance guarantee as well as more wellness-led elements like a gym with free 24/7 access all as part of our rental offer.
We also wanted to offer lifestyle options and support the wider area so that it becomes a place where people want to be. Not only do we host exclusive resident events in the building, but our Estates team also hold other events throughout the year and it’s great to have the park there. I’m proud that because Elephant Park is an open estate this green space is accessible to everyone, whether you live here or not.
Plus, we have retail elements too, 13,000 square meters of retail space in fact, but not big brands you see everywhere that all look the same. The retail team have worked hard to bring in smaller independent retailers to give them opportunities and really curate what is on offer for all residents and the broader Elephant and Castle neighbourhood.
- Would you agree this sounds like another little-known phrase in the UK, ‘placemaking’?
There are certainly elements of placemaking which have contributed to our success at Elephant Park, and I am confident we are getting things right or leasing and resident retention numbers wouldn’t be where they are!
- What are you most proud of at Elephant Park?
I am incredibly proud of everyone we work with; our on-site teams are fantastic at what they do and how they drive our strategy on a day-to-day basis, they really look after our customers.
I am also proud that we launched our BTR business during Covid and still made a success of it. Part of that was down to everyone’s perseverance and determination to make it work even when we repeatedly had to keep adjusting plans and adapting as things changed, but I know our customer and design focus helped in the long-term.
And, of course, we’re lucky this initial BTR investment is in such a vibrant and engaging part of London and I’m glad we’ve been able to bring BTR as well as shared ownership and other opportunities to buy to this area.
- What do you think is the future for BTR?
I think BTR has a bright future in the UK, and I am confident Lendlease will continue to invest in research and focus groups to get it right. In addition to our UK pipeline, we are preparing for our next communities in Milan, where we have two incredible regeneration sites.
Leadlease, Elephant Castle case study
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