PlaceFirst secures £25m to back housing ambition

The residential developer has agreed a £25m five-year debt funding deal with ESO Capital Group, to support the Manchester-based company’s target of delivering 1,000 affordable private rental properties across the North by 2020.

The funding will form part of a £90m development programme.

PlaceFirst is known for remodelling empty properties to create rental homes aimed at working families, and now works with local authorities and other organisations on the wholesale regeneration of neighbourhoods through both conversion and new build.

The developer is currently on site in the Woodnook area of Accrington, converting more than 200 empty terraces into a mix of two, three and four bedroom homes complemented by public spaces.

The company has launched the second phase of lettings at its West End One project in Morecambe, a 51-unit scheme that has brought former guesthouses back into use as family homes.

The funding from ESO will drive the next stage of the company’s growth, said PlaceFirst. David Smith-Milne, managing director, commented: “We have a target of 1,000 properties by 2020 and we are confident that this funding arrangement with ESO will help us achieve that objective. What we have discovered is a solution to the housing blight that still challenges many Northern towns and which can deliver not only quality new homes for people to rent but also a secure long term investment model for investors.

“Consolidating ownership, creating really stylish, robust, efficient homes for long term secure rent, through conversion or new build allows you to reshape the demography of an area which in turn attracts other investment.

“Whilst we are firmly a property developer, we also see ourselves as a socially responsible community stakeholder and this stance is integral to our business model.  It helps us stand out as being distinctive in a market dominated by a more short term approach.”

Most recently, PlaceFirst has entered into an exclusivity agreement with Liverpool City Council to develop a masterplan for the Welsh Streets, which will see more than 300 empty houses brought back into use alongside new homes and public realm.

With the funding secured, PlaceFirst said it is actively seeking other local authority partners across the North, to deliver family homes for the private rented market.

ESO Capital Group is a private equity, venture debt, and mezzanine investment firm, specialising in funding high-growth companies in the small-to-medium enterprise market.

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