EUROPE – Aviva Investors has agreed to provide £19m (€21.9m) to finance 212 residential assets in a 48-year sale-and-leaseback deal it says could be the first of several with social housing provider GreenSquare.
The deal – for the REaLM Social Housing fund, one of five income-focused funds set up for UK pension funds in 2011 – takes acquisitions for that vehicle to £89m against an undisclosed target.
It agreed three earlier deals, collectively worth £70m, with Derwent for assets in the East Midlands.
Fund manager Nigel Rule confirmed Aviva was sitting on "really significant" capital from UK insurers and pension funds for deployment in social housing assets but downplayed the likely difficulty of investing it.
"In terms of deals done, we've deployed capital successfully," he said. "Even if our type of product is only a small part of it, [social housing] is a big potential market."
Aviva adopted the amortising financial structure used for this and the three earlier deals for the fund because of its capacity to facilitate long-term, index-linked rental flows – though nothing in the fund's remit limits it to a single structure.
"These are long-term, complex deals involving a lot of properties – it's a time-consuming process," said Rule.
"We're dealing with a very professional and conservative type of organisation, with strong governance, which takes entering into a financial arrangement like this very seriously.
"So of course it takes longer than it would to acquire a single commercial asset."
Rule said the fund would target both large and medium-sized housing associations across the UK, identifying traction especially in organisations managing between 5,000 and 15,000 units.
He added: "If you look at the market, you'll probably find so-called supergroups will have greater access to large-scale finance through the bond market than medium-sized associations."
The UK market comprises around 1,400 housing associations.