At the first in-person RESI Awards since 2019, Property Week recognised those who went the extra mile in the toughest of years. Find out below who the winners are.
Grainger outperformed the market thanks to its mid-market position and the quality of its people, assets and platform. It posted a 16% rise in net rental income to £73.6m, rent collection was between 95% and 99% and it achieved 3% like-for-like rental growth. Despite the pandemic, Grainger launched 612 build-to-rent homes and four schemes and gained consent for 923 homes. Its customers love it too, staying for an average of 34 months – 89% of them gave it five-star online reviews.
Highly commended: Civitas Investment Management
Civitas is a pioneering investor, managing funds with £2.5bn of committed capital in housing with care. Despite the pandemic, the group performed in line with expectations, collecting 99.5% of rents, while achieving 100% dividend cover.
Sponsored by: Yardi
Best Covid response
Winner: Sigma Capital Group
Through its Simple Life brand, Sigma responded to the pandemic with initiatives that reassured customers who were struggling financially and emotionally. To help residents, the group introduced a deferred rental scheme and payment plans totalling £80,000 for furloughed and unemployed residents, allowing customers to pay back any rent deferred over an agreed period. Sigma provided all NHS staff residents with a 20% rent cut for three months. This support really strengthened their relationships with residents and, for many, highlighted the benefits of renting from a professional landlord.
Highly commended: Resonance
Social impact investment company Resonance, a leader in homelessness property funds, was highly commended for partnering with registered social landlord and social justice charity Nacro to launch a homelessness social investment property fund to help meet increased demand for housing from rough sleepers in London.
Sponsored by: NSPCC
Climate crisis initiative
TopHat has quietly and successfully set about creating one of the lowest-carbon-impact homes in the UK. Through intelligent design, innovative material choices and precision engineering, its homes are delivered in “a nigh-on zero-carbon manner”, emitting just 729kg per entire house in manufacture – a fraction of the emissions for traditional construction. A TopHat home will save 61,828kg of carbon dioxide over the life of the house, a 55% reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide compared with a traditional, masonry-built house, or a saving equivalent to living car free for more than 30 years. A traditionally built house has the same embodied carbon as 27 TopHat homes.
Highly commended: ilke Homes
This year, the developer launched its mass-market, zero-carbon housing solution to investors, developers, housing associations and councils. Branded ilke ZERO, the offering promises to transform housebuilding by creating zero-carbon communities at a large scale across the UK that will have zero energy bills and will be factory manufactured at zero additional cost by 2030.
Sponsored by: Chapman BDSP
Winner: SAY Property Consulting
Ten years ago, Charles Seifert and Debra Yudolph identified an opportunity to provide residential and mixed-use developers and investors with strategic operational advice. SAY Property Consulting has since grown to a team of 20, with fee earners growing by 20% and its turnover exceeding £2m in the latest financial year. During the most challenging time in living memory, the firm has defied all expectations, outperforming against its financial targets. It is a genuinely diverse business with women making up 66% of the team and 29% being from ethnically diverse communities, and critically from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.
Sponsored by: Blackstock Consulting
Winner: Realstar Management UK
Realstar struck one of the largest residential deals in UK history with the sale of Project Harmony to QuadReal – in the middle of a lockdown. As well as selling eight BTR and PBSA assets for around £580m, Realstar sold a partial ownership interest in its UK operating company and the UK rights to its UNCLE brand. The deal represents the first significant sale of a stabilised portfolio of BTR assets in the UK.
Highly commended: Pension Insurance Corporation and Muse Developments
PIC and Muse’s debut in the PRS market saw them complete the largest BTR forward-funding transaction by capital committed outside London in 2020.
Sponsored by: Shoosmiths
Winner: Capital & Centric for Crusader
Converting a derelict warehouse into Manchester’s first owner-occupied community is no mean feat. Capital & Centric achieved it in style with Crusader, a 200-year-old mill in Manchester that has been transformed into a vibrant community of high-quality homes that ooze character with their exposed bricks, timber beams, high ceilings and huge windows. Achieving this without involving investors was a huge gamble, but Crusader and neighbouring Phoenix have transformed the red-light district into somewhere people actually want to live.
Highly commended: Verto Homes
Verto Homes’ Lyonesse Lane in Cornwall showcased the next generation of sustainable construction, integrating a number of different technologies to deliver net zero carbon homes for local people.
Sponsored by: JLL
Winner: ARA Venn
By deploying £1bn of new residential lending in the midst of a pandemic and securing over £3.5bn of residential capital, ARA Venn has become a key supplier of residential finance in the UK. Working with the government on its private rental sector guarantee scheme, it kept operations going despite lockdowns and boldly lent £250m in the second quarter of 2020, when most lenders were retreating from the market.
Highly commended: Cain International
In 2020, Cain International embarked upon several innovative partnerships including PZO in Warsaw with White Start Real Estate and agreed a £74m loan with Canary Wharf Group for a new aparthotel in Wood Wharf.
Sponsored by: Packaged Living
Health and Wellbeing Initiative
Winner: Building for a Healthy Life
Adopted by Homes England as a core test for measuring its housing investment and endorsed in the latest national planning policy framework, the design principles formulated by social enterprise Design for Homes are seen as key to tackling the post-Covid health crisis. Commissioned by the NHS to encourage people out of their homes and cars, the project set out clear design principles to help planners make places more conducive to walking, cycling and an active lifestyle. The project will have a lasting impact on health and wellbeing in the built environment.
Highly commended: Moda Living
Moda Living aims to be the number-one lifestyle rental brand in the UK, and health and wellbeing are at the core of its ethos. During 2020, residents benefited from regular health checks, monthly wellbeing workshops, rooftop yoga, access to nutritionists and puppy afternoons. Moda also ran 78 events during lockdown to help improve residents’ mental health.
Sponsored by: Xenia Estates
Landlord (Private and Social)
Winner: Get Living
During the pandemic, Get Living got busy. The landlord agreed £252m of forward funding in July to deliver its Lewisham Gateway scheme. In August, it bought the Elephant & Castle shopping centre for £129m. It has a further 1,000 homes in its pipeline across Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the company pledged to implement an inclusivity policy and partnered with social mobility charity Aleto Foundation. With residents uppermost in mind, it also made 2,500 calls in lockdown to its tenants and hand-delivered more than 250 care packages.
Winner: Barratt Developments
Having built 17,243 homes in the past year, Barratt confirmed its position as the UK’s largest housebuilder. The company also leads the industry for quality, and remains the only major national housebuilder to achieve the maximum five-star rating in the HBF Homebuilder Survey for 12 consecutive years. It invests heavily in apprentices and those returning to the job market, with more than 500 employees taking part in its Future Talent programmes. The company also has 30 people in its unique Ex-Armed Forces Transition programme, which provides the opportunity for ex-servicemen and women to train to work in the construction industry.
Sponsored by: Savills
Later Living Operator
Winner: Audley Group
Audley Group’s expertise came to the fore during the pandemic, when it used its vast experience to support both owners and employees on a whole new level. The operator immediately shut all 20 villages to the public in March 2020, provided regular PPE to staff, tracked and traced all staff to minimise infection rates and provided daily welfare calls. The results were exceptionally low disruption throughout the pandemic, with 92% of residents reporting feeling safe and protected and 94% feeling well informed. On top of its Covid response, Audley Group also committed to new ESG measures and joint ventures.
Sponsored by: Aldermore Bank
Legal & Professional team
The past year has seen the appointment of Shoosmiths’ first head of living real estate partner Catherine Williams, underlining its strategic focus on the core living subsectors of housebuilding. The firm helped bring a number of exciting sites to completion in 2021 and influenced positive policy change as one of the five lead partners in the Platform programme. The team also built a bespoke online Covid-19 Hub, delivered more than 30 digital events and supported the growth of the clean hydrogen economy in Northern Ireland. Delivering record-breaking financials, with income up 9% on the previous year, Shoosmiths also paid staff a 10% bonus and gave back furlough payments.
Highly commended: Forsters
The team has a stellar year despite the pandemic, investing heavily in technology and advising on several high-value purchases. Forsters has the largest practice dedicated to residential property among London’s leading law firms, handling everything from large-scale developments, complex financings and enfranchisement to high-value sales and purchases.
Sponsored by: Pluto Finance
Powered by Pupil’s first-of-its-kind software and AI, Spec’s property marketing solution aims to bring trust and transparency to the residential market. The company conducted the largest study of its kind into property mismeasurement and found the average mismeasurement in London was 54 sq ft, representing an average discrepancy of £33,800. To solve this, Spec is producing measurements that are guaranteed for accuracy to 99% of a property’s true size. The company’s London sales pipeline totals £7.46m and demand has surged in the past year, with more than 15% of the capital’s estate agency branches ordering with Spec in the past 30 days.
Highly commended: Home REIT
Home REIT is an impact investment trust providing sustainable returns and homes to thousands of people who are facing homelessness in the UK and is the first of its kind to undertake an initial public offering. The newcomer was launched nine months ago and has exceeded initial targets in its plans for rapid growth.
Sponsored by: Ward Hadaway
Winner: Rendall & Rittner
Rendall & Rittner manages more than 80,000 residential properties throughout the UK with annual client income in excess of £350m. Celebrating its 31st year of business this year, the company has established a strong reputation in the sector and is constantly striving to implement both new and proven initiatives that go above and beyond property management, creating a stable platform for the growth of the business and staff. In the past year, Rendall & Rittner added 11,800 units to its London portfolio. It is one of the few residential managing agents to be regulated by RICS and has also attained Investors in People ‘Platinum’ accreditation.
Sponsored by: Harris Associates
Winner: Sigma Capital Group c/o Simple Life Homes
Sigma, the UK BTR residential development specialist, and EQT Exeter, a global leader in real estate investing, together launched a joint venture to deliver high-quality, new-build homes for private rental in greater London. At launch, the JV had already secured five sites within Sigma’s framework agreement with a GDC of more than £100m. The JV is targeting an initial portfolio of 3,000 homes with a value in excess of £1bn. Focusing on more affordable parts of Greater London, it aims to complete homes over a five-year period for letting under Sigma’s ‘Simple Life London’ brand.
Highly commended: Get Living and Muse
A striking vote of confidence in BTR, the deal for the final phase of Lewisham Gateway is the sector’s biggest and boldest development transaction. Get Living and Muse teamed up to agree this £252m forward-funding deal in what is one of the largest regeneration areas in the South East.
Highly commended: Pension
Insurance Corporation and Muse Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC) and Muse’s ground-breaking deal at New Victoria represents the largest BTR forward-funding transaction by capital committed outside London in 2020. Marking PIC’s debut into PRS, the deal was highly complex given the site’s physical constraints and the viability challenges, stakeholder engagement and due diligence required.
Sponsored by: Thomas Gray
Sales and Letting Agency
Winner: Savills Sales and Lettings
Savills rose to the challenges posed by Covid by focusing on safety and wellbeing, avoiding potential disruption and representing some outstanding developments. Staff were trained in new technologies and the team procured software and equipment to work remotely and created virtual tours through filming and 3D scans. The agency focused on innovation, as well as committing to diversity and inclusion and the ESG agenda. It said it was delighted with the resilience of its performance and the way the safety and wellbeing of staff and clients was overseen during an incredibly challenging year.
Highly commended: Rettie & Co New Homes Team
Rettie & Co’s new homes sales and marketing team is a market leader in the new-build and conversion sector in Scotland and has expanded rapidly throughout the country. Last year was a challenging one, but the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit enabled it to remain profitable and dominant.
Sponsored by: Far Eastern Consortium
Small Developer (Fewer than 1,000 units)
Winner: Beech Holdings
Beech Holdings has been operating for 20 years and has invested more than £62m in the renovation and restoration of disused and derelict buildings, delivering more than 700 new homes in Greater Manchester. It is committed to creating properties that enhance the local area and focuses on restoration and preservation. Instead of focusing on ‘build to rent’, Beech describes its approach as ‘rent to build’. Beech prides itself on looking at what the tenant wants and builds from there. This approach means that Beech can take buildings that would normally be deemed unfit for modern use and would be left empty, and give them a new lease of life.
Highly commended: House by Urban Splash
House by Urban Splash began offering its customisable, modular homes in 2016 at New Islington in Manchester. All the homes sold were occupied within a year, before the launch of a second offering at Smith’s Dock in North Shields and a third at Irwell Riverside in Salford. The group creates design-led homes where space and natural light are a priority. It works with the best architects and uses sustainable modern methods of construction to create new neighbourhoods built around character, green spaces and a sense of community.
Sponsored by: JLL
Social Impact Initiative
Winner: Hill Group
Under its initiative Foundation 200, Hill pledged £12m to deliver 200 purpose-built modular homes to charities helping homeless people across the UK. Working with leading homelessness charities and local authorities, the MMC homes will be built on small plots of unused or underused land in the next five years.
Highly commended: Capital & Centric
Capital & Centric transformed Piccadilly East in Manchester from an area with a reputation of anti-social behaviour to being named by The Times as one of the next greatest places to live. The group banned investors from the site for fear that apartments would be sold to foreign investors and created a new village to help homeless people.
Highly commended: Local Space
Local Space is a charity and housing association specialising in intermediate rental accommodation for London’s homeless. It has transformed 450 homes in one borough into 2,500-plus high-quality well-managed homes throughout north-east London within 15 years.
Sponsored by: Moda Living
Student Accommodation Operator
Joint winner: Fresh
In its 10th anniversary year, Fresh added more than 3,000 purpose-built student beds for the 2020-21 academic year. In response to the pandemic, it launched Be, a wellbeing and lifestyle programme, hosting events and fitness classes. Its strategy won Covid-secure accreditation from the British Safety Council, after an audit covering all areas of its business. In the past year, 44 Fresh staff attended mental health first-aid training to support students and colleagues.
Joint winner: Scape
Scape adapted to welcome more than 4,000 residents from 102 countries during the pandemic, launching ‘Peace of Mind’ policies to help put residents at ease, with flexible contract start dates, no upfront rent payments and the option to check in early to quarantine free of charge. Scape also invested in technology and hired carers to advise on symptoms and self-isolation.
Highly commended: Abodus Student Living
Abodus Student Living’s objective is to provide exceptional service to all students in its buildings. During the pandemic, it distributed self-isolation packages for residents and moved its events programme online, while remaining committed to investing in the broader student experience.
Sponsor: David Phillips
Residential Company of the Decade
Winner: Places for People
Over the past decade, Places for People has created diverse, sustainable and affordable-led neighbourhoods that lay the foundations for social cohesion, prosperity and sustainability. Bringing its six affordable housing businesses under one operating entity in 2019 helped create 1,226 homes for social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership. It also manages 209,000 homes and invested £72m in 2021 on improvements to its managed portfolio. Creating social value is key and it has generated £280m for economically and socially diverse communities in the past 12 months. Via its partnership with Homes England, it has committed to delivering 2,603 affordable homes by 2024. Recent projects include the Neighbourhoods strategy and ‘Neighbourhub’ Dashboard.
Highly commended: Moda Living
Moda has more than 13,500 homes in the pipeline with a combined GDV of £4.5bn. It is one of the fastest-growing players in the space and earlier this year announced its first move into London at Nine Elms, where it will deliver 500 homes with London Square, backed by Ares Management. Building on its 7,000-home BTR pipeline, the business is expanding into single-family housing with new brand Casa by Moda, also backed by Ares, targeting an initial pipeline of 5,000 homes worth £1bn.
Sponsored by: Foot Anstey
Stephen Ashworth, partner, Dentons
Property Week doesn’t normally present posthumous personality of the year awards, but by popular request, we made an exception this year for much-loved Dentons partner Stephen Ashworth, who died suddenly this April at the age of just 57. Ashworth’s passing brought to a premature end an illustrious 35-year career, during which he led for Camden council on the redevelopment of King’s Cross, helped secure permission for new towns in Essex and Hertfordshire and was involved in
Renzo Piano’s Cube in Paddington Square. Described by colleague Roy Pinnock as “a team player, but able and ready to challenge norms”, he rose rapidly up the ranks at Dentons to be one of the firm’s leading lawyers, becoming a partner in 1995 and head of planning in 1998. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.
Peter Freeman, chair of Homes England and co-founder, Argent
Peter Freeman is an industry legend. He co-founded Argent and was one of the visionaries behind the redevelopment of King’s Cross, as well as major developments in Birmingham and Manchester. Freeman was appointed chair of government housing delivery agency Homes England by the then secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick in October 2020. He is now driving the delivery of homes and infrastructure across England under new housing secretary Michael Gove. On accepting the award, he called on the industry to “co-operate, share their varied core competencies and to conjure” to turn millions of bricks into places where communities thrive.