The poet W.B. Yeats, an Irish emigrant in London, wrote his famous lines about his longing for home - the Lake Isle of Innisfree, County Sligo:
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.”
Innisfree Housing Association, set up originally to meet the needs of the Irish communities in London, took its name from the poem when it was established in 1985 – but isn’t using the same building construction techniques imagined by Yeats!
In 2017, the Board at Innisfree decided to step up to the challenge of solving the housing crisis - and to start building new homes again.
The first step was to draw development expertise back into the organisation and Red Loft was selected to deliver development agency services, supporting the Board to agree a new Development Strategy, including the default requirement to appraise all potential schemes in the first instance for London Affordable Rent tenure.
Reviewing existing schemes has identified a number of Hidden Homes sites already in ownership which can deliver nine homes. Even the smallest s106 opportunities are being pursued and also a successful bid was made for one of the first ten pilot sites belonging to TfL in the Small Sites Initiative, to deliver nine new homes in Neasden.
With Treasury advice from DTP and new loan facilities from Triodos Bank, Innisfree are now actively back in the development arena.
Probably the most valuable lesson has been the journey for the Board. Being presented with the risks of development, exploring these at the pace needed, becoming more confident as their mitigations were put in place and realising that they had become strong development clients. And on that journey, recognising that the biggest risk was the risk of building NO new homes.