Great to read Richard Whitby at Firethorn's take on the future of development finance. As a REF practice we have seen the growth in alternative lenders in the space over the past few years, across the capital stack and covering a range of sectors - logistics has certainly become more of a focus for lenders in recent times. It was very interesting to see Richard's view that sustainability should be considered together with the more traditional key factors for lenders being the expertise of the sponsor and the strategy for the development asset.
As we noted in our recent update, ESG - the hot topic for the real estate industry in 2021, the real estate industry has been moving to embrace ESG initiatives over the past few years and real estate development has been at the vanguard of that. The real estate finance industry has been keen to support and promote sustainability as shown by the LMA's promotion of its Green Loan Principles and Sustainability Linked Loan Principles. We are also seeing some leading bank lenders and a number of alternative lenders in the space embarking on specific sustainability linked lending strategies typically offering beneficial terms to borrowers who are able to work towards specified sustainability objectives. It's great to see the collaboration and common purpose between both lenders and borrowers looking to press ahead with a sustainable future for development.
For developers, whilst relationships with the high street banks and other traditional lenders still exist, their focus right now is largely on managing their existing portfolios, where they continue to work with landlords in distressed sectors such as retail, hospitality and offices. As a result, developers are looking, almost exclusively, to alternative debt providers – lenders who have more appetite for development, leasing and planning risk.