MIPIM | Urban Splash to raise £3bn for residential push
Attending his 30th MIPIM, chairman Tom Bloxham sat down with Place North West to chat about what Manchester’s rental market is lacking and how his company can continue to play a key role in Manchester’s regeneration.
So far, Urban Splash has raised £150m for its residential fund three years after it was established. In the next 10 years, the company aims to tap institutional investors to increase this to £3bn.
Through this ambitious cash raise, Bloxham intends to remain a key player in the city’s residential development scene and add more variety to what is currently on offer to Manchester’s growing population.
“Manchester has been amazing with development and there are a lot of great developers [there] but I would say a lot of the build-to-rent [development] is much of a muchness,” Bloxham said.
By that, he means that many of the homes being delivered in the city are single aspect, small, aimed at the top 10% of renters and “increasingly designed by accountants rather than architects”.
“Everyone wants an efficient building, which means a very big building with long corridors and lots of small flats,” Bloxham said.
The product is not the only thing lacking variety, according to Bloxham.
“Manchester hasn’t got a very varied community,” he said. “The majority of people are young singles and cities are much richer when they have kids and elderly people.”
Bloxham wants to see some elderly living accommodation developed, as well as more schools, as the lack of schools in the city centre often results in families moving to the suburbs, he explained.
Urban Splash played a key role in the creation of the New Islington Free School, Manchester city centre’s only primary school, which is located in one of Urban Splash’s regeneration hotspots.
Bloxham also wants to see more affordable homes in Manchester. The city council has often been criticised for prioritising housing delivery over enforcing its own affordable housing policies and the lack of diversity when it comes to tenure is another problem within the city’s residential market, according to Bloxham.
“If you’re rich you can go and buy or rent anywhere you want. And actually, if you are very poor in Manchester, you get picked up ok by registered providers.
“The real gap in the market is hard-working people on low wages, the people who keep Manchester running night and day.”
To address this problem, Urban Splash is targeting 30% provision of affordable homes within its developments going forward, Bloxham told Place.
Urban Splash was one of the early drivers of regeneration in Manchester and Bloxham is keen for this to continue into the future. Bur these days sites are harder to come by.
“We have actually not got any live sites in Manchester at the moment. That’s a real issue for us. It would be a tragedy if there were no Urban Splash homes for sale in Manchester. We have to get busy on that.”
One site Urban Splash was looking at was the University of Manchester’s ID, which went to Bruntwood SciTech after a long and drawn out competition.
Urban Splash was working in joint venture with Peel L&P on its proposals for the site.
“The reason we brought Peel in to bid with us was their experience with Media City,” Bloxham explained. “Our vision for the site was a mixed-use scheme keeping many more of the old buildings.”
Despite missing out on arguably Manchester’s biggest development opportunity, Bloxham is gracious in defeat, admitting his admiration for Bruntwood SciTech’s work.
“I am sure they will do a great job of it. You never like losing anything but you can’t win them all,” he said.
Place North West MIPIM 2022 coverage is sponsored by Castle Green Homes