Increasing numbers of fund managers are looking to profit from social housing and other niche sectors as income investments from the property market continue to stagnate.
Residential Secure Income, a new investment group targetting social housing, is set to float on London Stock Exchange in July. The company plans to raise £300m as part of its initial public offering.
RSI, managed by ReSI Capital Management, plans to acquire homes and lease them back to local authorities and housing associations. The company claims that it will provide inflation-linked income returns and targeting a dividend yield of 5 per cent.
Residential Secure Income’s announcements means that it will become only the second UK-listed fund dedicated exclusively to social housing investments. Its planned launch follows that of Civitas Social Housing in November last year which raised £350m to acquire properties around London, the Midlands and the south of England to lease back to housing associations. Civitas also targets a dividend yield of 5 per cent.
Increasing private sector involvement
The social housing sector is increasingly attracting private sector money. Pension funds and insurance companies — including Legal & General and Pension Insurance Corp — have been lending to housing associations for several years.
GCP Capital Partners — which runs the GCP Infrastructure fund — said it already holds some social housing and is looking to increase its exposure to the asset class through lending to housing associations.
GCP fund manager Stephen Ellis said: “We’ve got £100m plus and a pipeline of £50m at the moment
“We lend against the acquisition or development of properties by housing associations.”
Mr Ellis added that with 750 housing associations there “ought to be rampant opportunities”, and that retail funds’ small size allowed them to strike deals that bigger players — such as insurers and pension funds — were uninterested in.
Housing associations were also good borrowers, Mr Ellis continued. “Not one housing association has ever defaulted.”
The exemption of housing benefit reductions is a further bonus for investment in supported accommodation.
“Essentially what we’re looking to do is attract public sector-backed cash flows, as long-dated as possible, and wherever possible with inflation linkage,” Ellis said.
However, Andrew Summers, head of research at Investec Wealth, warned that even for private investors there remained risks, notably the possibility of negative press coverage in the event of homes being repossessed. “Housing is a political hot potato,” he said. “There’s a lot of headline risk in [the potential story of] people being thrown out of their homes to fund City investors.”
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