Octopus enters the UK affordable housing market

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OctopusOctopus Investments is launching a new affordable housing business to deliver pioneering housing schemes across the UK, including a first scheme of 106 new homes in Doncaster.

The business has been created as a joint venture with QSH, an affordable housing developer specialising in building affordable homes in the UK with little or no government subsidy, and will initially trade as Octopus QSH. The business, in which Octopus owns a majority stake, will form part of the Octopus group.

Octopus, which currently manages more than GBP5 billion of funds, has a track record of successfully scaling businesses that have transformed the markets in which they operate. Octopus manages a number of different funds and is committed to building out Octopus QSH’s pipeline of affordable housing sites over the coming years. The business aims to transform the affordable housing market in the UK by developing thousands of new homes in the next few years. Octopus is already an established player in the property market through Octopus Healthcare, a leading healthcare property fund manager and developer business, and Dragonfly Property Finance, a market leading and multi award winning lender, which is also part of the Octopus group.

With more than 1.5 million households on social housing waiting lists in England and Scotland[1] and at a time when the government subsidy for affordable housing has been cut back, Octopus QSH is well placed to respond to local housing needs in the areas in which it works. The homes it develops will be available under a number of different rental and affordable home ownership models: to rent, rent-to-buy, deferred purchase and extra care.

Mario Berti, head of the specialist finance team at Octopus, said:

“There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in the UK which presents a huge opportunity for Octopus QSH. The government desperately needs to create more homes in order to meet its policy objectives and we will be providing innovative solutions to local authorities and housing associations to help solve this problem. Today’s launch of Octopus QSH sees Octopus build on its successful track record of entering markets where we can really make a difference.”

Paul Hardisty, chief executive of QSH, said:

“As an Octopus business we will now be able to really scale up our work delivering homes up and down the UK. All of the members of QSH’s management team have social housing backgrounds and we are able to provide a genuine bridge between the public and private sectors. We’re flexible about the sites we work with, the number of homes we build and the type of properties we offer. For us, the most important thing is to work with local authorities, house builders and social landlords to provide the homes that local people really want and need.

“Octopus has a track record for developing market leaders across a whole range of sectors – we look forward to working with them to become a market leader in the delivery of affordable homes.”

Work is starting on Octopus QSH’s first development in Doncaster, where the builder will be Wates Living Space, a strategic partner of Octopus QSH. The Martindale development will include 106 two, three and four bedroom homes, all of which will be available through QSH-rent-to-buy, an innovative scheme through which half of tenants’ rental payments – set at affordable rent levels – are put towards the deposits they need to secure a mortgage to buy their home.

Tenants are able to save up to 10 per cent of the purchase price and have the option to buy their properties within their first ten years of living there. Those who do not purchase during this time can continue renting their homes. They are able to pay affordable rents – which are 80% of typical market rents – for up to 20 years.

The opportunity to rapidly expand the business with Octopus has led to it taking on three new team members. Simon Smith, Octopus QSH’s new financial controller, is joining from the Chartered Institute of Housing, where he is director of financial consultancy. Fenella Webb has been appointed as operations director having worked previously as senior service manager for business change and development within the Housing Directorate at Birmingham City Council. Finally, Kevin Hancock has joined Octopus QSH as construction director, having spent the last 15 years working as a senior manager for development in the social housing sector.