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Can footballers save the council estates for tomorrow’s footballers?

We recently read an article about footballers getting involved in providing social housing and it got us thinking about their reasons and whether they might succeed.

Former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, has launched a brand new charity to create social housing using a new and innovative approach. Joined by West Ham captain Mark Noble and Brighton & Hove’s Bobby Zamora, the footballers’ charity, The Legacy Foundation aims to build new housing developments made up of at least 45% social housing.

For those interested in the practicalities, the scheme will use a leaseback model which will see private investors fund the developments, rather than the Local Authority financing the build. The council will own the freehold on the properties and grant the investors a long leasehold, typically of 45-years. It will then pay the investors rent over that period to provide them a return on their investment. This creative model aims to deliver modern, desirable and affordable homes within the community as a long term approach.

Rio Ferdinand has announced:

“We aim to deliver schemes with local authorities that not only reduce the pressure on affordable housing, but will empower their tenants through an onsite sporting academy as well as providing high quality accommodation for all. We will work with major private sector investors to devise a scheme that is both affordable, and, indeed, accessible for all. The model can deliver schemes without the local authority needing to finance the cost of the build programme whilst giving full occupancy and control when completed. We want to work closely with the local authorities and Central Government to understand precisely what is required in their area and look to deliver a scheme that will empower communities for generations.”

The Legacy Foundation, partnering with McLaren Property and Colliers, has already committed to a new regeneration project in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire which will see investment from Aviva. The project is said to commence in 2017 and plans to create up to 1,400 new homes – a mix of social rented, affordable and privately owned. Importantly for the footballers, the project will have a strong focus on building a community and providing opportunities for children. Brandon Lewis MP, Minister for Housing and Planning, thinks the project is set to “turn housing on its head”.

Mark Noble has commented:

“We will change the face of communities living in local council housing for generations, with a high percentage of all our schemes delivering social and key worker/affordable living, whilst also providing fantastic sports and academic facilities for tenants and adults alike. I know full well what it is like to have lived in such areas as Legacy is targeting and look forward to finding the next West Ham captain in our foundation.’

It is surprising to think that a housing development, with a large portion of truly affordable homes, could help develop the next generation of footballers. Could it really be true? As housing lawyers we were a little sceptical, but these guys know a lot more about what makes a good footballer than we do and seem to be approaching this project based on their own upbringings and childhood experiences.

Looking back through history, maybe Rio et al are right about a link. Social housing with long term secure homes was the norm through the 50s and 60s, England won the World Cup in 1966. After the decline in social housing, particularly with the Right to Buy initiative in the 1980s, England didn’t just fail to hit those heights again but failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1994. They got to Euro 1996 only because they were hosts. After their dismal display in Euro 1992 it is unclear if they would have reached it otherwise.

Coincidence? Or is an increase in social housing really our path back to footballing glory?