House Crowd on the hunt for sites as Altrincham start nears
The Hale-based crowdfunder is set to kick off a £15m project in the centre of Altrincham this summer and has its eye on more sites across Greater Manchester and Cheshire, its development director has told Place North West.
The company’s development arm, headed up by director Justin Molloy, is looking to start on site this summer on a 40-home project off The Downs in the centre of Altrincham, after purchasing two sites including the former Nick’s pub.
Designed by Calderpeel, which is currently working up construction drawings for the scheme, the development is a mix of 31 apartments and eight townhouses as well as a commercial unit in the former pub.
Speaking to Place North West, Molloy said the scheme was typical of the House Crowd’s projects; having bought part of the site with planning permission, the developer looked to “up the specification” of what was on offer to bring it to site.
“We want to provide quality family housing with a better-than-average specification. Every scheme we buy with planning consent will be looked at again with the idea that, if I was living in that house, what would my life look like and how would I use that space?” he said.
“In order to be competitive in the market and provide security for investors we need to have something that has the value of planning. We’re not in the business of land improvement, but in the business of consent improvement. The risk and reward involved with land enhancement is great but it’s not something we want to be involved with.”
The developer is active across the North West stretching from the likes of Heywood and Mossley down through Stockport, Altrincham, and into Cheshire in Wilmslow, Chester, Crewe, and Frodsham. Project currently on site include an £11m development in Oldham, being delivered by CPUK.
The company typically supports its developments through its crowdfunding platform, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Investors can provide from £1,000 and upwards in an individual scheme; for its development arm, investors can loan money to allow the House Crowd to build and sell new properties.
It is also active in the centre of Manchester where it has purchased Chapel Walks off Cross Street, where it plans to deliver apartments in the 12,700 sq ft former office. It bought the site from Chancerygate earlier this year.
“Predominately we’re looking at sub-£600,000, everything registered at help-to-buy, and looking at affordable locations where there is clear demand, providing houses for people, funded by people,” said Molloy.
The developer is looking for more sites, with these typically ranging between 10 homes up to 54, although Molloy added there was “capacity and comfort level for up to 75 homes”.
The House Crowd works with an established team including architect Calderpeel and employers’ agent Edmond Shipway on most of its schemes, which typically are available for Help-to-Buy with prices between £200,000 and £450,000; exceptions include Altrincham and Wilmslow where the product is likely to be more high-end.
However, Molloy emphasised the company’s approach was not “land improvement” and called for changes to the planning system to make both private-sale and affordable more deliverable.
“I’d like to see a greater emphasis on the way that planning is sought; it’s too easy to get an outline consent that isn’t deliverable, and when you go back to see what can actually be delivered, you’re starting from fresh,” he said.
“Quite often, things that have been agreed by a landowner don’t make commercial sense for a developer, down to things like viability and expectations for social housing, which we want to deliver in spades, but ultimately it’s got to work for everybody.
“I would advocate a system whereby you had to go for a detailed consent, something that’s tested commercially, that the viability studies are done on, that then drives the affordable element, and everything is parcelled up so the local authority as much as anybody else, know that a plot of land that they’ve consented will be delivered: there will be a 106 agreement, there will be CIL, there will be affordable, we’ve tested it, and it works.”