Homes for Londoners Land Fund

The London Housing Strategy sets out the rationale for the Greater London Authority (GLA) to take a more interventionist approach in London’s land market.

The aims are to:

  • build more social rented and other genuinely affordable homes
  • accelerate the speed of building
  • capture value uplift for public benefit

A failure over recent decades to build the number and sorts of homes London needs has left Londoners facing a housing crisis characterised by increasing affordability pressures and rising housing need. To help address this, the draft London Plan identifies capacity for 65,000 new homes per year over the next 10 years, with a strategic target for 50 per cent of these to be genuinely affordable. In the shorter term, the Mayor has secured funding from the Government to start 116,000 genuinely affordable homes by March 2022.

These numbers are ambitious and challenging. The GLA is keen to work with private developers, registered providers, local authorities, and other public-sector bodies to find ways to unlock and increase affordable housing delivery in the capital.
The Mayor has therefore established a Land Fund to enable the GLA to be more interventionist in its approach. The Fund comprises at least £736 million, drawn from the GLA’s housing and land resources alongside funds the Mayor has secured from the Government.
 
Part of the Fund has been allocated for recoverable investments, including buying and preparing land for onward sale and development. This allows the GLA to reinvest receipts to unlock more opportunities in London. The Fund is unconstrained in respect of the type of investment (e.g. debt or equity) that can be provided. The GLA is willing to consider a broad range of investment opportunities with partners including co-investment.

Homes for Londoners (a dedicated housing delivery team within City Hall) is seeking to roll out the Land Fund in areas that offer acceptable returns on investment to support delivery of the Mayor’s strategic objectives.

In summary, these are:

  • increase overall numbers of affordable homes delivered
  • secure wider social and community benefits
  • deliver acceptable financial returns

GLA Land Fund Investment Strategy

Strategic housing and development objectives

The role of the Land Fund is to support:

  • bringing land forward for housing development more quickly
  • ensuring development of optimal, policy-compliant levels of affordable housing with at least 50 percent affordable housing delivered on public land
  • land assembly
  • working with partners to fund land, infrastructure and enabling works for schemes where additional housing may be possible, or where acceleration of delivery may be achieved with additional investment
  • having a greater level of influence over the level, pace, quality and tenure profile of affordable housing delivery in London
  • ensuring that more of London’s planned and permissioned housing opportunities are proactively supported through to delivery, especially where these are stalled
  • diversifying the housing development sector by supporting innovative approaches to housing delivery and SME registered providers and private developers
Ways the GLA can assist

The GLA is flexible in the way it can provide assistance through the Land Fund. Funding could take the form of grant funding, debt finance or equity investments. Some of the ways the GLA could work with organisations to deploy funds include:

  •  senior or mezzanine debt finance for land and/or development costs
  •  equity investment
  •  gap funding
  •  land assembly
  •  infrastructure
  •  site remediation

Proposals will be expected to clearly demonstrate organisation’s capability and capacity to deliver: the proposed homes within agreed timescales; the projected returns including anticipated repayment profile; and that the delivery model will be compliant with State Aid rules.
 
Examples of previous land fund investments include:

  • the provision of land acquisition finance for the former Holloway Prison site in the LB Islington to Peabody Trust;
  • the provision of development finance to Anthology for the Marshgate Lane development in LB Newham; and
  • the acquisition of surplus land on two hospital sites at St Ann’s Hospital in LB Haringey and North Middlesex Hospital in LB Enfield, capable of delivering up to 1,000 homes
Land Fund investment parameters

The land funding is split into different categories, each of which has different funding criteria, risk profiles and expected return parameters. GLA officers will designate which part of the Fund is used to finance your proposal.

Below you'll find the key parameters that should be considered in proposals submitted:
 
Return on Investment

Delivery of homes and affordable housing provision

Delivery of affordable homes is a key Mayoral priority. A minimum requirement for investment will be delivery of GLA planning policy compliant levels of affordable housing which is 35 per cent on privately owned land and 50 per cent on public sector land.

Increasing the speed of delivery is also key, and counterparties will be asked to demonstrate how the GLA’s funding unlocks and expedites delivery. Projects that are capable of starting on site by March 2022 or earlier will be prioritised. Applications that deliver the greatest value for money, and maximise the amount of affordable homes, will be prioritised.

Social and community benefit

The Mayor is keen to support proposals that clearly demonstrate benefits are provided for the communities within which they are located. As part of this, proposals must meet a pre-determined benefit cost ratio (BCR) threshold to qualify for funding. BCRs will be calculated by the GLA based on the principals as set out within the HM Treasury Green Book and MHCLG Appraisal Guide.

Financial

The GLA will always seek to recover its investment and seek a commercial return commensurate to project risk. The GLA will reserve the right to cap investment at £50 million per contracting entity and will only provide funding above this rate by exception.

Risk Appetite

The GLA is looking to build a balanced portfolio of interventions. We consider a variety of proposals and appreciate that projects vary in risk and levels of return. Lower returns may be acceptable on certain projects where significant and demonstrable social benefits such delivery of affordable housing above minimum planning policy requirement are achieved.  

The GLA will analyse the key risks associated with proposals prior to making investment decisions. Key risks will include deliverability and recovery of investment. However, the GLA will take a holistic view of development, in line with Mayoral objectives and can therefore consider a wide range of proposals under the Fund.

Opportunities for co-investment, partnering and risk sharing can be explored through this fund.

Investment Term

A key objective of the Fund is to unlock housing delivery through a variety of means. Shorter term investments (up to five years) will be prioritised to enable the GLA to recycle funding to unlock further delivery. However, an element of the Fund will target longer term land opportunities, including industrial land and land where returns can be de-risked over time through planning, site assembly or partnering.

How to access funding

Complete an expression of interest form – partners are asked to demonstrate how their proposals unlock housing delivery.

Evaluation and clarifications – expressions of interest forms will be evaluated. Proposals that demonstrate a return on investment and/or ability to deliver housing starts by March 2022 will be prioritised.

Due diligence process – Proposals will be subject to detailed financial, legal and property due diligence undertaken by our panel of consultants.

Approval – proposals will be subject to delegated approval through a GLA Director’s Decision form.  

Please refer any queries to [email protected]. We will aim to respond to all queries within three working days.

Governance

The Funds will be administered through a multi-staged assessment, decision-making, and monitoring process. Propositions that clear due diligence undertaken will be reviewed in an agreed series of senior officer meetings, some including independent members, prior to being submitted for approval through a GLA Director’s Decision form.
 
Successful proposals will be subject to ongoing monitoring by dedicated GLA officers to ensure that approved projects achieve the key agreed targets, outputs and milestones and, where appropriate, investments are recovered.