Housing associations are partnering with surprising friends to deliver on our shared ambition

A development of 225 new flats in the heart of Sheffield was possible only through a partnership that would have seemed unlikely just a few years ago.

Tony Stacey is Chief Executive at South Yorkshire Housing Association

Tony Stacey is Chief Executive at South Yorkshire Housing Association

20 March 2018

Halton Housing Trust Chief Executive Nick Atkin keeps telling me I need to go paper-free. I am getting there… slowly.

There will be three paper documents that I retain when the big moment arrives however. They are the two definitive analyses from the Chartered Institute of Housing ‘Is big really best?’ and ‘Does size matter?’ The third is the cover of the Financial Times for 13 November 2015.  It carried the headline ‘Osborne eyes privatisation of stake in social housing’. You remember it – it was the one that said the Government was considering allowing bankers and hedge funds to take over housing associations. If the Chancellor’s intention was to scare the bejesus out of housing association folk, he succeeded.

Why then, two years on, has South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) entered into one of our most significant partnerships with Alternative Investment Fund Manager Cheyne Capital, one of the aforesaid hedge funds? Devils and long spoons jump immediately to mind.

The answer is that we have found Cheyne brilliant people to do business with. We established at the outset a clear set of common objectives. Cheyne is funding our project using funds through their corporate social responsibility stream. They have pushed us at every stage of the process to increase the proportion of homes we will be managing for them with rents below market levels, and also to increase the discounts against the market wherever possible.

They have been brilliant from start to finish. They found the site where we have jointly developed 225 flats. It is the perfect location by the canal side in the heart of Sheffield. We have agreed to take on a 21-year lease with an option to extend for a similar period at the end. The scheme is a big step forward towards our shared ambition to ramp up housing supply in the Sheffield City Region. The scheme provides sub-market homes without grant, and the structure of the deal gets the scheme off our balance sheet.

At one stage our solicitors were at loggerheads. The solution? A quick call to Cheyne’s Shamez Alibhai and a view was taken. SYHA partners with all kinds of organisations: local authorities, other housing associations, health authorities, voluntary organisations. The list goes on. Shamez and his team from Cheyne Capital have been one of the best we have worked with, and we intend to do more.

If any other housing associations are interested in developing new homes in this way, SYHA will be happy to help. This is a good model, and can form one of the ways in which housing associations respond to the Government’s exhortation to ‘build, build, build’.

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