Q&A: David Montague on L&Q's plans post-merger

L&Q and East Thames housing associations have completed their merger this week, creating a new organisation that aims to deliver 100,000 homes in the next decade.

The new entity, which will be called L&Q, has also completed a £2.6bn refinancing: the biggest in the history of the social housing sector.

L&Q’s chief executive, David Montague, outlined the firm’s plans to Property Week.

How did you find the merger process?

It took us 35 weeks, which is not bad; some of these things are two years in the making. It was a bit of a setback when Hyde pulled out [in August], but for us it is all about chemistry: L&Q and East Thames are excited about the same things.

Have you revised your goals in the wake of Hyde’s withdrawal?

We made a commitment to deliver 100,000 homes and we are sticking with it. We’re doing all the things we were going to do with Hyde and we still have the capacity and the ambition to do that.

What is the significance of the refinancing?

The refinance [completed with Barclays, Santander, HSBC, RBS, Dexia, Nationwide, RBC and Lloyds] was the biggest in the history of the social housing sector and will set the stage for what we want to achieve. What we’ve done with the refinance is to reset the clock completely, and we have secured confidence from our investors in that.

What kind of schemes will you do?

Barking Riverside is a good illustration of the kind of things we are now capable of and there will be more like it. The scheme will be the size of Windsor and L&Q will quadruple the annual housing delivery rate as well as put our own money into a new railway station. Housing associations are only just starting to realise the potential of our balance sheets.

We see beyond the current economy and political cycle and our eyes are just opening to that massive potential.

You’re going to see us moving in a significant way into strategic land, which we need to do in order to fuel our development aims. But we’re not going to lose sight of our existing customers and our strategic mission.

The G15 housing associations have made a commitment to set aside our parochial differences in order to step forward and deliver homes. We want to work together to deliver Sadiq Khan’s vision for affordable housing.

Will your attention continue to centre on London?

We’re going to remain focused on London and the South East, but a target of 100,000 homes is probably more than we can deliver in that region alone in the short term.

We recently entered a joint venture with Trafford Housing Trust to deliver 2,000 homes in Manchester and if we can get that kind of model to work elsewhere then we will do that.

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