In May our refinance experts attended London’s Social Housing Finance Conference, the leading one-day UK wide event for senior finance and treasury professionals in the sector. Housing associations and local authorities come together to discuss the strategic, operational and technical finance matters at the forefront of the social housing agenda.
An optimistic start to the conference highlighted the resilience of the social housing sector and it’s history as “recession-proof” making it an attractive investment and a sector that organisation’s supplying it should consider as an integral part of balanced risk profile. It was acknowledged that other more commercial areas of the real estate sector are in a state of flux and the mini budget had helped stress test the sector. However, given the consistent demand for social housing, the regulatory framework and quasi public status providers of social housing occupy, they are generally considered to be a low credit risk.
There was much discussion over the upcoming general election and large part of the appeal to voters for Labour government is regarding social housing since this is a major part of the Labour electorate. Regardless of which party is at the helm, it is predicted that issues will continue in relation to supply and planning logistics. There are rumours circulating about the government reinstating Help to Buy and there are concerns that zero deposit mortgages will only increase prices.
Concerns about private capital
Investment (especially private capital) is its seen as suspicious since the social housing sector is not market driven like commercial real estate. Questions are raised as to whether these private capital avenues can be depended upon as long-term prospects especially once commercial markets bounce back and become more profitable avenues of investment. Bond placements seem to be out of favour and there is very little long term funding currently happening.
Challenges around inflation
In light of the base rate increase to 4.5%, inflation is projected to come down (3% anticipated) but it was acknowledged that actual prices are unlikely to reduce in tandem and that mortgage payments are only one consideration, food and utility bills are having a significant impact. Whilst all are observing the increased cost of living, it is undoubtedly the lower socio-economic groups that are suffering most although default similar to the global financial crisis level is not predicted. Consumer confidence has been hit and it was noted that many who are offered mortgages are opting not to take them and instead remaining in the rental sector.
Lenders’ response to the crisis
There needs to be proactive management on breach, both from lenders and borrowers. Both need to consider the rising cost of funds and their ability to renegotiate finance covenants.
Our team specialises in refinance for the housing sector and can help ensure clients are “lender ready” by exploring with you the various options and potential challenges posed by the market, such as modern methods of construction and innovative schemes.