A seminar to establish means through which the financing of more affordable housing for staff within the Racing and Breeding industry can be achieved is to be held at the Cadogan Hotel, London on Thursday 22nd February.
The seminar has been organised by the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and Racing Welfare, the sport’s leading welfare and housing charity. It is to be chaired jointly by Baroness Mallalieu, chair of BHB’s Stable and Stud Staff Steering Group, and Cedric Burton, Racing Welfare’s Chief Executive.
The seminar will be attended by delegates drawn both from across the industry, and also from the property and finance sectors. Elinor Goodman, Chair of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission set up in 2005 by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and David Fursdon, Chairman of the Country Landowners and Business Association, will also be present.
Despite the progress made in the last two years in relation to the employment, welfare and career development of stable and stud staff, the availability of affordable housing for the sport’s key workforce remains a fundamental and unresolved issue.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the shortage of affordable housing, particularly in rural areas, is not a problem exclusive to Racing, the latest BHB survey conducted in 2006 showed that almost three quarters of racehorse trainers and over half of stud owners considered that a lack of affordable housing for staff had a negative impact on their business. It is estimated that at least 500 units of affordable housing are required around the country to address the accommodation problems of the Racing and Breeding community.
The Donoughue Commission, which reported in June 2004, found that under 20% of all racing staff owned equity in property, and recommended that a blueprint be devised by the industry which would look at combining financial backing with third parties who specialise in the provision of accommodation, the development of new build accommodation and associated planning issues, and a range of tenure options.
Speakers on the day will include Steve Taylor, Head of Wealth Management at Cordea Savills, a well-established property fund manager, and Andrew Williamson, Director of Hastoe Housing Association’s rural Development Unit, who will present on innovation in funding affordable housing developments. One of the key discussions will be the principle of the industry setting up a suitable investment vehicle for projects.
Cedric Burton said: “Racing and Thoroughbred breeding make a major contribution to the rural economy and those businesses need workers who can afford to live close by. We need to make affordable housing an attractive and secure long term investment for employers, racehorse owners and other investors if we are to get anywhere near the number of new homes that are needed.
“The key will be some form of bond or investment fund, either commercial or charitable, which can deliver the funding together with some form of trust which can guarantee the affordability of the accommodation to racing families in the long term. This initiative is clearly in the interests of the Racing Industry but it could prove to be a model for other sectors concerned about maintaining the economic vitality of the countryside.”