The AJ talks to Steve Sanham about his new housing-focused outfit Kin Developments, a subsidiary of investment manager Mitheridge, and his vision to ‘develop better’
Steve sanham 2
What prompted you to leave HUB?
After six years at HUB, three of which I was managing director, I decided that I was ready for a new challenge. A young family, as well as the work I do with the charity A Band of Brothers, led to a bit of a reassessment of priorities, and a recasting of what I wanted to achieve.
The current global situation has just added to my motivation to ‘develop better’, and I definitely feel like I’m in the right place to achieve that.
I’ve known the original partners at Mitheridge, Will Yerburgh and Archie Lord, for some time.
I’ve been very fortunate to find two investment professionals who share my vision of purpose-driven investment and development.
What is going to be different about your new venture?
With the backing of Mitheridge, Kin is not only able to dream big, but also deliver big. Generally speaking, other developers in this space might not have committed funding in place, or are private equity funds without the ability to source and deliver their own investments.
Kin has access to Mitheridge’s committed capital, as well as their strong financial management skills – which enables us to be a one-stop shop for origination, funding and delivery.
We set Kin up to deliver purpose-driven residential-led development projects – purpose has never been more important in business than now, and a development company that puts people at the core of its purpose, we think, is a no-brainer in the current environment.
There are going to be even bigger stresses on the housing market in a post-Covid world, which will require ever more inventive solutions. Having a business that cares about solutions, but also has the financial firepower to deliver on those solutions, we feel, can really make a difference.
How big a part does design play for you?
Good design is fundamental, and for me it always has been. The businesses I’ve been part of over the years (Urban Splash, Argent, HUB) hopefully speak for themselves in that respect.
However, good design that stays on the page is nowhere near as interesting than good design that manifests itself in game-changing developments. What we’re interested in is finding ways to deliver beautifully designed schemes that fully answer the questions that are being asked of them.
Zodiac Court, Croydon, hahnchen at wikimedia commons
What are going to be your first projects and how will they differ to what is already out there?
Zodiac Court, in Croydon [where TV comedy Peep Show was filmed], will see the existing buildings transformed and joined by new buildings to breathe life into what has been a neglected corner of Croydon for some time. We’ve a number of other deals in the pipeline all of which are challenging and require a creative and non-traditional approach to unlock.
Zodiac Court will be a residential-led mixed-use scheme, containing a mixture of tenures – some of which will look to answer some very specific questions around the current housing challenges in London. We will be working with architects shedkm, who have already made a great start to collaboratively addressing the topical issues of re-use and high street regeneration.
How can architects help deliver the aims of Kin?
The housing crisis that exists in London and the South East is not one that can be solved by solely building thousands more of the same ‘units’, although this seems to be at the heart of most responses to the crisis. We need creative ideas that seek to first understand the nature of the crisis, and then provide solutions.
A long-term renter does not suffer the same crisis a homeless young mother
The housing crisis is multi-faceted. A long-term renter does not suffer the same crisis as a potential first-time buyer, who in turn does not suffer the same crisis as a young mother with a child who has found themselves homeless. One solution definitely does not fit all.
How do you go about selecting your architects and will new practices get a look in?
I am open to contact from architects with new ideas and different ways of thinking. New and diverse practices will get just as much as a look in as established players, because primarily we want to work with the best on how we can collaboratively deliver solutions to complex housing problems.
What are your views on permitted development. Is it unfairly maligned?
Currently, it’s part of the system, whether popular or not. Some of the issues I have with permitted development are developers approaching it as a way of squeezing lots of shoebox flats into an old office, rather than creating real homes for people to live in.
New and diverse practices will get just as much as a look in as established players
There was never any issue with developers converting old warehouses, and mill buildings into homes. So if this is done correctly, why should there be any issues with people doing a good job of converting old offices into homes?
With some old office-to-home conversions, there is merit in repurposing this redundant workspace, and it seems likely there will be more of this due to changing working habits. Finding an alternative use for an existing building is fundamentally the right thing to do from a carbon perspective. The adage rings true: ‘the most environmentally sustainable building is the one that’s already there’.
Is there anybody that you wish to emulate?
Through my career I have worked with some absolutely brilliant people and I like to think that I’ve taken a little bit of them with me on my journey.
What are going to be your markers of success?
Unlocking complex sites and opportunities in a way that deliver both environmental, social and economic value. Measuring environmental impact has become commonplace to track. But there will be a lot of thought into how we make decisions about those final percentages as we try to move toward zero-carbon.
Similarly, the economic value, and returns to our investors we are able to measure and are crucial to what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to take on these projects.
Our social impact is the hardest to measure, as it is about improving lives, opportunities and places as we develop and build. Our goals are to make people’s lives happier by developing as if people mattered.