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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Circle celebrates first social housing public-private funding partnership

13/02/2020


Circle Voluntary Housing Association has agreed a landmark €51 million investment package to deliver around 250 new homes over the next 12 months. Circle’s chief executive John Hannigan explains the charity’s plans to provide social and affordable housing for families across the country through an innovative partnership with the private banking sector.

This ground-breaking deal is hopefully the first of many solutions to the barriers that the sector has faced. I’m sure the effectiveness and importance of organisations operating collaboratively has been showcased in bringing this agreement to fruition. The professionalism and commitment of Centrus and AIB is what secured such a workable funding structure for Circle.

And I’m confident it will pave the way for more!

Circle and our colleagues in the Housing Alliance are very much open for business and eager to find solutions to end the current housing crisis once and for all.

From humble beginnings in 2003, this not-for-profit charity organisation now manages 2,350

tenants and residents on a national basis. In response to the housing crisis that Ireland finds itself embedded in, we’re looking to grow significantly over the next two to three years to provide for the huge demand for social housing in areas of Dublin, greater Dublin and other parts of the country.

Circle’s purpose is to deliver quality homes and innovative integrated housing solutions to individuals and families in Ireland. But the desire to grow is not enough, and we have taken innovation seriously and pushed it in every aspect of our business. With determination and a solid experienced team we have delivered a landmark financial agreement that offers a new form of funding for social housing, in partnership with Centrus and AIB.

FINANCE PACKAGE SAFEGUARDED

The finance package, as structured by Centrus (the financial advisor to Circle with funding by AIB) provides us with a three-part loan, over a 30-year period, which includes a revolving credit facility, a term loan and working-capital facility. The nature of the agreed package allows Circle to re-use the borrowed funds at any time over the period of the loan, providing a safeguard for ongoing speedy development of social housing.

The deal is the largest private financing package to any approved housing body in the country, and I hope the initial 250 properties will be the first of many thousands to be developed in the coming years in areas such as the Greater Dublin area, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Kildare and Galway.

We are absolutely delighted with this historic agreement. This innovative partnership approach, between the private banking sector and housing charities is what is needed to solve the housing crisis.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS

With our 30-year agreement in place, we should be able to bring 250 social homes on stream. Our development team, led by Pat Costelloe, is eager to build and create partnerships with developers while maintaining our tight ties to Ireland’s local authorities. This finance solution was due to combined thinking and collaboration between Circle, Centrus and AIB.

What we have achieved is a modern approach to financing that has never been accomplished in this sector before. It is a sustainable model which will benefit thousands of families over the course of many years due to the revolving nature of the credit, allowing us to expand and provide additional homes on an ongoing basis.

Continued collaboration is needed to break the deadlock and defeat the housing crisis once and for all. A determined effort of innovative solutions will pave the way, and we at Circle intend not only to build more houses but to build partnerships and create new networks in order to discover those solutions.

MEMBERSHIP OF THE HOUSING ALLIANCE

Circle is a member of the Housing Alliance, which is a collaboration of six of Ireland’s largest approved housing bodies (AHBs) – Clúid Housing, Circle Voluntary Housing, Co-operative Housing Ireland, Oaklee Housing, Respond and Tuath Housing.

The Housing Alliance was formed to promote the delivery of social and affordable housing by larger AHBs, to address barriers and challenges to delivery and to promote strong professional approaches to housing management.

Members work collaboratively on a range of issues, including financing of social and affordable housing, while also retaining their independent status. Most Housing Alliance members are

active members of and participants in the Irish Council for Social Housing. Each one exercises good governance and accountability, filing annual audited financial statements with the Companies’ Registration Office, and is regulated by the Housing Regulator and Charities Commissioner.

For more information about the Housing Alliance, take a look at housingalliance.ie.


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