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UK healthcare property market sees record €3.14bn investment in 2020

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The UK healthcare property market saw record investment volumes in 2020 totalling €3.14bn (£2.7bn) despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 55% higher than last year, as investors increasingly seek stable returns and long-term secure income, according to global property adviser Knight Frank. This comes as healthcare property has seen surging interest from investors both in the traditional sectors such as care homes and private hospitals, in addition to rising demand for more specialist assets and providers such as mental health, learning disability and children’s services including children’s homes, foster care and schools.

 

An increasingly broad church of investors is targeting UK healthcare including a rising weight of institutional capital, a strengthening selection of REITs, and a growing level of overseas investors. Overseas capital has significantly increased, accounting for 72% of healthcare transaction volumes in 2020, markedly above the 41% share seen across the last five years.

 

The most significant deals were focused on the private hospital market, with North American REITs expanding their presence in the UK. European entrants have also been involved in some hugely significant deals already in 2021, with French operator Korian making its entry into the UK elderly sector and Belgian REIT, Cofinimmo, also acquiring assets in the Irish market. Both transactions are pivotal in restoring confidence and signal overseas capital is likely to play a critical role in the sector in 2021 and beyond.

 

Despite healthy investment flows, the pandemic has posed an unprecedented operational challenge for the sector, with hospitals, care homes, GP practices and other specialist healthcare facilities adopting stringent infection control measures, often at a cost, and private sector workforces being stretched in many of the same ways as the NHS. The greatest concerns were understandably focused on the elderly care home which impacted investment volumes with the elderly care sector representing 18% of all healthcare property investment, compared to 39% across the last five years.

 

Julian Evans, Head of Healthcare at Knight Frank, said: “Investment appetite for healthcare real estate remains strong, both in more traditional assets such as care home developments as well as more specialist assets including the increasingly popular mental health services sector. This demand is only strengthened by the limited supply within the healthcare market combined with the awareness of the ever-growing demographic fundamentals for these assets which are driving the sector and make it largely recession-proof amidst testing economic conditions in 2021. The year ahead will not be without its operational challenges as the sector looks past the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, we expect to see increased global and domestic capital directed at healthcare real estate as investors seek the safety provided by long-dated income the sector provides and look to de-risk and re-weight asset allocations out of retail and into alternative sectors; and the pandemic will likely accelerate investment into social infrastructure. We expect to see more investors target new development opportunities through both direct investment and lending. This inward investment is vital for the future of the sector.”

 

The strong fundamentals driving the need for healthcare real estate meant that the healthcare property sector outperformed the rest of the commercial real estate sector, with returns in the sector holding strong at 6.3% in 2020, whilst the wider sector saw returns below the long-term average. With a growing pool of investors and a diverse range of different asset types, healthcare transaction volumes have increased year-on-year since 2016, in contrast, to deal volumes in the wider commercial real estate market, which have stagnated and fallen in recent years.

 

High-profile healthcare property deals that are on the market and in the pipeline include mental health services provider Elysium Healthcare (c. €1bn /£900m), children’s care and education services provider Keys Group (€290.3m/£250m) in addition to another €3.5bn (£3bn) of specialist (mental health, learning disability) providers and €1.16bn (£1bn) of broader healthcare property transactions. England’s largest mental healthcare provider The Priory Group was sold to private equity group, Waterland, for €1.28bn (£1.1bn) at the start of 2021.

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Facebook admits high-profile users are treated differently

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Facebook’s oversight board said the social media company hadn’t been “fully forthcoming” about internal rules that allowed some high-profile users to be exempt from content restrictions and said it will make recommendations on how to change the system.

In the first of its quarterly transparency reports published Thursday, the board said that on some occasions, Facebook “failed to provide relevant information to the board,” and in other instances the information it did provide was incomplete.

For example, when Facebook referred the case involving former US president Donald Trump to the board, it didn’t mention its internal “cross-check system” that allowed for a different set of rules for high-profile users.

Facebook only mentioned cross-check, or XCheck, to the board when asked whether Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.

The cross-check system was disclosed in recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal, based in part on documents from a whistle-blower.

The journal described how the cross-check system, originally intended to be a quality-control measure for a select few high-profile users and designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistakenly have their posts taken down, had ballooned to include millions of accounts.

The oversight board said it will undertake a review of the cross-check system and make suggestions on how to improve it.

As part of the process, Facebook has agreed to share with the board relevant documents about the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal. – Bloomberg

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Green mortgages may leave owners of older homes unable to sell

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Estate agents warn owners of older homes, rural houses and listed properties could struggle to sell under green mortgage plans

  • Boris Johnson has unveiled his plans for turning Britain green by 2050 
  • The plans include proposals on how to make the housing stock greener 
  • The plans would see lenders disclose the energy performance of properties










Homeowners living in older, rural and even listed properties risk being unable to sell if strict green finance targets are introduced, estate agents have warned.

The warning comes after Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for turning Britain green by 2050 this week, with mortgage lenders having targets for the energy performance of properties in their portfolio.

A body that represents estate agents across Britain claimed that the property market could be distorted as a result of the measures and called for Britain’s historic housing stock to be taken into account.

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Timothy Douglas, of Propertymark, said: ‘Incentivising green improvements to properties via lending creates risks of trapping homeowners with older properties, those who live in rural areas, listed buildings or conservation areas, making their homes difficult to sell and therefore reducing the value.’

Propertymark said that those living in older properties could be left with homes that they could not sell if buyers were unable to secure finance on them due to their lower energy efficiencies.

The effect would be likely to be felt more by less wealthy owners, as deep-pocketed buyers would be more able to overlook mortgage restrictions and high-end older homes would continue to be desirable.

Mr Douglas said: ‘The use of targets could distort the market and sway lenders towards preferential, newer homes in order to improve the rating of their portfolio.

‘Stopping a large portion of housing stock from being able to enter the market could cause havoc for home buying and selling as well as the wider economy.’ 

He added that improving the energy efficiency of homes should be reliant on consumer choice and not something enforced by mortgage lenders, with all the knock-on effects this could entail.

He said: ‘We would be concerned if lenders raise rates and limit products because fundamentally, improving the energy performance of a property is reliant on consumer choice and it is not the core business of mortgage lenders.’

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘The green agenda is not new but there is increasing impetus behind it. There are more green mortgage products aimed at those purchasing more energy-efficient properties – A-C rated, and not just from specialist lenders but the high street banks too.

‘However, there is a real danger that green initiatives could create the next round of mortgage prisoners if homeowners are trapped in older homes that can’t be improved, so they can’t move because they can’t sell them on.

‘Without changes or improvements, lenders may restrict lending to lower loan-to-values, higher pricing, or not lend at all. This could penalise those who are unable to adapt to or adopt new efficient technologies economically.’

A UK Finance spokesperson said: ‘Greening our housing stock is vital if we are to meet our climate change obligations and banks and finance providers are committed to helping achieve this goal and making sure consumers are not left behind.’

Ways to boost energy efficiency  

Propertymark recommends three measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes without negatively impacting the housing market.

1. Improvements linked to an EPC

These include linking a plan for energy efficiency improvements to the recommendations on a property’s Energy Performance Certificate.

It could demonstrate the ‘most suitable route’ to a warmer home, regulatory compliance and zero carbon, according to Propertymark.

2. Tax breaks

It also recommends using tax breaks to incentivise homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements.

For example, these could include making energy improvements exempt from VAT or offering lower rates of council tax for homes that have been made more energy efficient.

3. Adjustable tax rates

An adjustable rate of property tax that is tied to energy performance is also being recommended by Propertymark.

This could be done in two ways, it suggested. First, by applying the adjustment as a reduction on more energy-efficient properties. And second by offering rebates to buyers if energy efficiency improvements are made to less efficient properties within a certain time period after purchase.

Propertymark said that by linking energy performance with property taxes, this could help introduce increased saleability for more energy-efficient properties. In addition, it suggested that improvements would become standard for homeowners seeking costs and improve the desirability of their homes.

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Johnson rules out face masks as UK’s daily Covid cases rise above 50,000

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Daily coronavirus cases in Britain have risen above 50,000 for the first time since July, but Boris Johnson said he will not bring back compulsory face coverings or introduce vaccine passports.

Speaking in Northern Ireland, the prime minister said his government was holding firm to its policy of no legal restrictions introduced in July, but was watching the numbers carefully.

“The numbers of infections are high but we are within the parameters of what the predictions were,” he said. “We are sticking with our plan.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged the “patchiness” of Britain’s vaccination programme, urging people to come forward for their booster jabs as soon as they are invited to do so. But Labour leader Keir Starmer said the government should beef up the programme, ensure that more children were vaccinated and aim to deliver half a million jabs a day.

“The government said that the vaccine would be the security wall against the virus and now the government is letting that wall crumble,” he said.

“We’ve seen those that most need it not able to get the jab they need. Only, I think, 17 per cent of children have got the vaccine. And the booster programme has slowed down so much that at this rate we’re not going to complete it until spring of next year. So the government needs to change these, it needs to get a grip. I think it needs to drive those numbers up to at least 500,000 vaccines a day.”

Vaccine passports

The British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of “wilful negligence” in not bringing back some restrictions, and of failing to learn the lessons of a parliamentary report last week about its handling of the pandemic. The association’s chairman, Chaand Nagpaul, said doctors could say categorically that it was time to bring back compulsory face masks and to introduce vaccine passports.

“By the health secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day, and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown,” he said.

“It is, therefore, incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and protect the NHS. ”

Health secretary Sajid Javid warned this week that some restrictions could be introduced if the public failed to exercise caution and to take up vaccination offers. He acknowledged that Conservative MPs could show an example by wearing masks in the House of Commons, but house leader Jacob Rees-Mogg on Thursday rejected the suggestion.

Crowded spaces

“There is no advice to wear face masks in workplaces. The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don’t know. We on this side know each other,” he told the SNP’s Pete Wishart.

“Now, it may be that he doesn’t like mixing with his own side, wants to keep himself in his personal bubble. He may find the other members of the SNP – who I normally find extraordinarily charming…but we on this side have a more convivial fraternal spirit, and for our calling the guidance of her majesty’s government.”

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