Insurer agrees to bankroll initiative despite growing concern from other investors

Insurance group Aviva has detailed its plan to invest £500m in the Homes and Communities Agency’s initiative to build new homes for rent over the next two to three years.

Andrew Appleyard, head of specialist funds and real estate at the insurance group, said the firm would invest in one scheme per quarter over the period. The HCA hopes the scheme will encourage institutional funders to bankroll the building of thousands of units for private rent.

The decision comes despite growing concern from other potential investors over opposition by the Treasury to offering guarantees to cover the rent of vacant properties if income fell below a certain sum. This is needed to make the plan financially viable.

Speaking at the Thames Gateway Forum, Appleyard said falling land prices meant he could commit cash even without government subsidy and despite factoring in projected vacancy rates of 10%.

Appleyard said the firm had examined more than 20 sites across London and hoped to enter into partnership with a social landlord, which had been selected. It hopes to start on the scheme next year.

Originally, 64 firms responded to the HCA’s request for expressions of interest in the scheme, with Legal & General, Grainger, Schroders and Chelsfield all known to have responded. However, last month HCA chief executive Sir Bob Kerslake admitted European Commission approval was needed to allow the HCA to offer the rental or void guarantees mooted in the summer consultation.

It is understood the HCA in London has been in discussions with a number of interested parties to take on a number of publicly owned sites without the rent guarantees before Christmas.

Andrew Pratt, managing director of residential at Grainger, said: “It’s running out of time. If nothing is in play before the end of the year, then there will a struggle to get anything before we get a new government.”