The Ethical Housing Company launches to tackle housing need in Teesside

7th February 2018

Bridges Evergreen Holdings (“Evergreen”) is delighted to announce the launch of The Ethical Housing Company (“EHC”), an ambitious new property venture with a mission to create a portfolio of well-maintained, affordable homes for rent in Teesside.

The Ethical Housing Company (ethicalhousing.co.uk) will acquire suitable 1-3-bedroom properties in the region, focusing initially on Redcar, Cleveland and the neighbouring boroughs. Through its partner The Ethical Lettings Agency (“TELA”), it will then rent the properties out to people in housing need, including those on benefits, over the long term.

A lack of other suitable housing means vulnerable people often need to rely on the private rental sector for their accommodation. All too often, they face substandard living conditions, with landlords and agencies ill-equipped to support their needs – which leads to unstable tenancies and a risk of homelessness. There are now an estimated 4.5m people living in poverty in private rented accommodation in the UK, a total that has increased by c. 80% since 2007. In Redcar and Cleveland alone, there are an estimated 1,568 households assessed as needing affordable housing, 1,529 of which are currently in private rented accommodation[1], with an estimated 48% of current private rented households in receipt of Local Housing Allowance/Universal Credit to help pay rental costs[2].

Social entrepreneur Carla Keegans established TELA two years ago as a community interest company in her home town of Redcar. Carla, who has previously held senior roles in the local authority housing sector, continues to lead TELA, and will serve as the Director of EHC.

Carla Keegans, Director of The Ethical Housing Company, said:

“I’ve seen from my work with The Ethical Lettings Agency that there’s a real shortage of decent homes to rent for people on low incomes in Teesside. Evergreen’s long-term approach and impact focus makes them the ideal partner to build a property company that will increase the supply of well-maintained, affordable homes available to those in need, while maintaining our commitment to benefit local communities and housing markets.”

The Ethical Housing Company was launched officially in Redcar this week, with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen also endorsing the initiative as a catalyst for change in the local area.

Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley, said:

“The Ethical Housing Company will invest millions into the Tees Valley housing market, to provide decent rented housing. It’s excellent that this innovative company is starting in the Tees Valley and I look forward to working with them over the coming years.”

Evergreen is a permanent capital vehicle managed by specialist impact investor Bridges Fund Management (“Bridges”). Unlike standard private equity funds, Evergreen has no requirement to exit in a finite period – allowing it to provide financial, operational and impact management support to the Ethical Housing Company over the long-term. It has earmarked an initial £5m to support the launch, with an ambition to scale beyond this over time into other areas of the UK.

Bridges has extensive experience in property and housing. It has raised over £500m across four property investment funds, two of which have made substantial investments in lower-cost housing in Greater London. It has also now funded six social outcomes contracts commissioned by central and local Government with the aim of preventing or reducing homelessness. Bridges’ Scott Greenhalgh will join both the EHC and TELA boards as a Non-Executive Director.

Scott Greenhalgh, Chairman of Bridges Evergreen Holdings, said:

“We hope the cooperation between The Ethical Housing Company and The Ethical Lettings Agency will demonstrate a model that can be used and replicated to address one of the most pressing challenges facing the UK: the lack of decent, affordable homes for rent.  If we get this right, we have an opportunity to deliver significant long-term impact in Teesside and, over time, beyond.”

Notes to editors

About The Ethical Housing Company (ethicalhousing.co.uk)

The Ethical Housing Company will exist to purchase and own decent affordable rented accommodation in the Teesside area, to meet local housing need. By taking a long-term approach, rents can be kept at affordable levels, thus providing a stable option for those in housing need. Working in partnership with TELA, the decent maintenance of properties and good tenancy management will also help to keep value in vulnerable housing markets and hence support local communities.

About The Ethical Lettings Agency (ethicallettingsagency.co.uk)

The Ethical Lettings Agency (TELA) is a Community Interest Company that lets and manages residential properties in the Redcar, Cleveland and wider Teesside area. It provides a range of expert services based on professional housing practice with a policy of simple and transparent fees. TELA strives to raise standards in the lettings industry to reflect the changing needs of customers and communities.

About Bridges Fund Management (bridgesfundmanagement.com)

Bridges Fund Management (formerly Bridges Ventures) is a specialist fund manager focused exclusively on sustainable and impact investment, with offices in London, New York and San Francisco. Since 2002, the firm has raised over £900m to invest in SMEs, properties and social sector organisations that are helping to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges, with a focus on four themes: health and wellbeing, education and skills, sustainable living and underserved markets.

About Bridges Evergreen Holdings

Bridges Evergreen Holdings is a new kind of investment vehicle, designed to free ambitious mission-led organisations from the constraints of traditional fund structures.

  • It looks to back profit-with-purpose companies, public sector spin-outs, social sector organisations and employee-owned businesses.
  • It is structured as a holding company rather than a fund, so it can provide ongoing support over the long term, with no exit requirement.
  • In addition to financial capital, it also offers strategic, operational and impact management support plus access to the specialist networks of the Bridges team.
[1] Redcar & Cleveland Strategic Housing Market Assessment, 2016
[2] TELA’s ‘Support to Rent’ evaluation report, 2017