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Private Investment in Social Housing ''To Be Encouraged''

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United Kingdom  Real Estate Investment Trusts  Grant Shapps  George Osborne  British Property Federation  Residential REITs  Peter Cosmetatos  Chloe Smith 

Private Investment in Social Housing ''To Be Encouraged''

By - Tuesday 10 April 2012

The government is making attempts to encourage more property investment from private financiers. Yesterday (April 4th), Chloe Smith, economic secretary, together with housing minister Grant Shapps released a consultation to consider changes to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), so that more support is available for the social housing sector. This follows measures being introduced in the Finance Bill to boost private investment into these trusts. Mr Shapps said: "We're launching today's consultation … to see how we can best break down the barriers that prevent private investment in social housing - with the turnover from housing associations now at over GBP 12 billion this should be seen as a sound and stable investment to those looking for a long-term return."

Adding to his comments, Ms Smith said the government wants to encourage "innovative ways" of investing in social housing, stating that ministers believe changes to REITs could help do this. She pointed out this would have many benefits, including presenting "value for money for the taxpayer" as well as providing affordable homes for many families in the UK. She added that she is looking forward to finding out the results of the consultation and seeing whether any changes could be made to allow a greater amount of investment from private sponsors into this sector.

Plans to consult on REITs were revealed in the government's Budget, which chancellor George Osborne announced last month. As part of the consultation on the regime, the government intends to look at whether to change the treatment of income from a REIT when invested in another REIT, in addition to how these trusts can support the country's social housing. The government also committed itself to making changes to the legislation in order to support entry to REITs, as well as private investment in them.

These plans have been given the support of the British Property Federation, with director of finance at the organisation Peter Cosmetatos recently saying he welcomes the agenda to review REIT income. "The investment is currently not treated as part of its tax-exempt property business, even though that is exactly what it is," he stated, adding that a change in these rules "would help stimulate investment and improve liquidity in the property sector".

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