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Manchester targets £300m annual housing investment

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A partnership between the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Manchester City Council hopes to attract £300million of investment annually to build 55,000 new homes in the city by 2027

Speaking to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, Deborah McLaughlin the chief executive of joint housing deliver body Manchester Place also aimed to encourage small and medium-sized builders into the city by offering to help with development finance.

McLaughlin takes up the partnership’s top post next month - on secondment from her current role as the HCA’s executive director for the North-west.

She has jointly chaired the project board, along with council chief executive Howard Bernstein, since Manchester Place was launched last summer.

The partnership will effectively operate as a broker between investors, landowners and developers to accelerate the development of housing schemes. The bulk of financing is expected to be raised from the private sector.

McLaughlin told Construction News: ‘It’s about £300m a year to be invested in delivering housing, including development finance.”

While most of that investment will be private sector money, SMEs will be able to draw on HCA financing.

McLaughlin added that Manchester Place would work with investors to help them ‘get more clarity’ over issues, such as planning consent and land values.

‘This [Manchester Place] will help an investor to understand what they’re buying into. Having the backing of the local authority and the HCA gives confidence to investors about the deliverability of schemes.

‘A lot of investors don’t know which sites will come forward,” she added.

‘There are sovereign wealth funds and insurers looking for investments; if they know the local authority is up for it, that gives them greater confidence that they can invest in it.’

Manchester Place has already commissioned development frameworks for sites across the city ahead of the submission of planning applications.

“[The] traditional approach is we’d issue a prospectus, or a city would wait for planning applications to come in to take sites forward,’ McLaughlin said. ‘We’ve sort of turned it round now and gone out and identified the landowner [or] the developers [first].’

Briefs for the first sites to be developed under Manchester Place will be launched in early spring, with Ancoats, Irk Valley and the NOMA redevelopment site - all of which are on the northern or eastern fringes of the city – among the initial areas of focus.

Although details of the plans will only emerge in the coming months, Ms McLaughlin urged contractors interested in taking advantage of the pipeline of work to get in touch as early as possible.

There’s more work here than is deliverable by those operating in the city

‘We’re not as far as having contractors or housebuilders in place but, because of the pace we want to go at, we need more people. There’s more work here than is deliverable by the people already operating in the city,’ she said.

‘We want SMEs to come forward and we will help them with development financing. We also want a number of volume housebuilders.

‘I don’t know who they are yet but the message is please come and talk to us.’

Around 60 per cent of the homes built are expected to be available for rent, with around 20 per cent of those likely to be earmarked as affordable.

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