Choice Housing has announced that they have secured a £50m loan from bLEND Funding Plc which will allow them to further invest in their social homes provision across Northern Ireland. The transaction between Choice and The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC) and their bLEND funding framework was completed on Wednesday. Choice confirmed that they secured the funding at an effective rate of 2.14% fixed until April 2054.
Borrowing at such a low rate provides the stability for Choice to continue to invest and grow in their social housing offering whilst managing risks associated with for example, the impact of a global pandemic.
Choice Housing, one of the largest independent housing associations in Northern Ireland currently operate over 12,000 properties in the region will use this funding stream to fund their Social New Build Programme aimed at delivering over 800 new social homes over the next 2-3 years.
Choice Group Chief Executive, Michael McDonnell said,
“We are pleased to announce this new funding from THFC/bLEND, a first for Northern Ireland. As a result of this arrangement, we were able to access the capital markets quickly and effectively and fixed our cost of long-term finance at historically low rates.
“The pandemic has impacted every sector across society and social housing is no exception and whilst our performance in terms of meeting our social homes targets has been good, particularly in maintaining a high level of service provision during the pandemic, multiple lockdowns has had an impact on our development plans.
“We engaged with THFC to find a tailored, competitive financing solution that aligned with our wider business objectives but that ultimately provided us with the freedom to invest more in our social housing pipeline”.
As an existing borrower from THFC group, Choice Housing’s bLEND loan indicates the strengthening of a longstanding relationship, and bLEND’s entry to the Northern Irish social housing sector.
Piers Williamson, CEO of bLEND and parent company The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC), said:
“Not only does bLEND provide quick and easy access to long-term funding at very competitive rates, but it now offers a reliable deferred drawdown option, allowing our borrowers to take advantage of the current rates environment to meet future funding needs”.
Choice was supported throughout the process by Savills Financial Consultants. Alex Morgan, Director at Savills Financial Consultants added,
“This is a fantastic outcome for Choice and reflects another successful step in their funding strategy. Savills Financial Consultants are delighted to have supported Choice throughout this transaction, which is the first Northern Irish participation in the bLEND Programme”.