Leveraging Public Investment for Build to Rent

The Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England) has played a key role in the delivery of housing having provided £1.6 billion of financial investment through their Build to Rent and Home Building Funds.

The ULI UK Residential Council hosted an event on ‘Leveraging Public Investment for Build to Rent’ on 16th November at Berwin Leighton Paisner in London to invite insights from both the public and private sectors on the opportunities for innovative financial participation and lessons learned.

Welcome & Introductions
Alex Notay of Places for People introduced the session alongside Andrew Yates of Berwin Leighton Paisner, who kindly hosted the event.


  • Gareth Blacker, General Manager Infrastructure and Complex Projects, Homes England
  • Sophie White, Head of Infrastructure, PRS & Complex Projects, Homes England
  • Rajesh Shah, Managing Director, Tipi
  • Rick de Blaby, Deputy Chairman, Get Living London
  • Moderator: Michela Hancock, Development Director, Greystar

Discussion Notes:

Gareth Blacker and Sophie White spoke about Homes England’s role in the delivery of housing and their aim to collaborate with other lenders and expediate the delivery of housing.  Homes England has been involved with 25,000 of the 100,000 build to rent units in the UK providing £1.6 billion of financial investment.

The Build to Rent Fund

The fund was originally launched in late 2012, with the objective of providing development finance for the delivery of PRS units and to stimulate growth in the sector. It was initially a £200m fund, with a further £800m announced at the 2013 budget.

19 contracted schemes, with a total funding value of £700m, which will deliver over 7,000 new PRS units. Over £900m of funding was approved although some schemes proceeded without Agency funding or did not proceed for various scheme specific reasons.  The ongoing market engagement now used in the HBF means risk of under utilisation of funds is reduced.

The 100% recovery rate attached to the Build To Rent Fund resulted in transactions approved under the fund being targeted at sites in stronger market locations backed by good counterparties.

The majority of HCA investment was senior lending, with a first charge. Two projects, Essential Living & Newfoundland (Canary Wharf) were club deals, where the HCA’s involvement provided banks the comfort to co-invest in PRS projects. The largest transaction (£181m) was at East Village with Qatari Diar Delancey (QDD).

In 2012, the PRS market was still nascent, and both delivery and funding models were at early stages. The advent of R2 of the fund in 2013 saw the ‘new’ class of dedicated PRS operators (e.g. Essential Living, Realstar and Manchester Life) take up a greater proportion of the fund.

Gareth highlighted some examples of build to rent schemes which have used the fund including East Village, London where Homes England invested £181m through the Build To Rent Fund and Essential Living schemes in Bethnal Green, Archway and Maidenhead where Homes England invested £25.5m through Build To Rent fund as part of £51.6m club facility with RBS.

The Home Building Fund

£3 billion to support house builders in England.

£2 billion focused on delivering infrastructure to support strong future pipeline of housing supply – target 160,000 homes.

£1 billion for development finance to diversify and support innovation by supporting SME’s, custom builders and innovative construction methods – target 25,500 homes.

Home Building Fund Key metrics:

New and Future Opportunities:

  • The focus through the Housing White Paper has shifted to PRS / BtR being seen as an accelerator to development and delivery rates at scale
  • Homes England has engaged in initial discussions with Sigma regarding the establishment of a REIT, which could generate a large volume of PRS stock nationwide, built and managed through an established development and management platform
  • Public land / Homes England owned sites – Sigma transaction has demonstrated PRS can be delivered on suburban sites and with an increased family housing focus.
  • In addition, Homes England is engaged with a range of other parties regarding innovative delivery arrangements geared towards PRS including an experienced investor/developer and a major housebuilder. The latter is a potential JV which would facilitate the delivery of multi-tenure housing (of which around 30% would be PRS). In addition, English Cities Fund has delivery of PRS as a stated corporate aim.
  • Homes England has invested in strategic infrastructure to bring forward large sites where PRS forms a key part of the residential offer. An example of this is the New District at Canary Wharf and most recently with Quintain at Wembley.

How to apply for the fund:

Visit the Homes England website to complete an enquiry form: https://homebuildingfund.campaign.gov.uk/

Click HERE to download Gareth Blacker and Sophie White’s presentation

The panel responded and shared lessons learned.

Rick de Blaby highlighted the Home Building Fund served as a source of long term, patient capital and assisted Get Living London in delivering their developments.

Lessons learned:

  • Long termism, understanding it is a long term investment, not just financially but through the investment in the team and talent – everyone is important from the janitor to the designer.
  • Customer focus – hard wired throughout the organization to service the customers.
  • Obtaining feedback from residents is key. Learning and responding as you go along.   Get Living London interview residents every month.  Tipi have a ‘beer and pizza’ evening to invite resident feedback.
  • Technology can help. CRM database to help customer service.
  • Get Living London abolished deposits, which led to up to 98% occupancy.  They established that the deposit was a barrier and/or deterrent and the financial gain from retained deposits very small.  80% of occupiers are now deposit free.
  • Furnished vs unfurnished – Tipi has 70-80% demand for furnished units in the UK. Compared to almost all of Greystar’s units in the US being provided unfurnished.





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