Question – What’s a WOC?
Answer – A Wholly Owned Company
WOCs are emerging in the local authority Housing Sector as part of that sector’s response to the Housing supply side crisis, up and down the country.
At Altair we have been working with one of the trailblazers in this sphere – Red Door Ventures (RDV). This is LB Newham’s WOC and over the last 6 months we have supported its development from concept to delivery.
The Council agreed to set up a WOC in February 2014. The company commenced trading on October 15th 2014 and now has 36 homes on site, a further 30 homes with planning consent poised to go on site and a further 15+ schemes progressing through the Planning system (circa 600 homes). RDV’s primary residential product is an up-market private rented offer, based in East London and beyond. It is a purely commercial venture focused on long-term growth and profit. The company has been configured: –
- To have first refusal of all council land and property disposals (which must be purchased at commercial rates to stay the right side of State Aid provisions).
- To be free of public sector procurement rules – this is largely a consequence of its independence from the council. Whilst it is a WOC, it has an independent Board and a shareholder agreement that offers a great deal of latitude in its strategic and operational decisions.
These 2 characteristics have enabled the company to move with pace and it already has 50 sites in its development pipeline, an increasing number of which are outside of Newham’s boundary and ownership.
Other councils have followed a similar route and Ealing’s Broadway Living is up and trading, but has different objectives and philosophy. Many other councils are exploring the feasibility of a WOC.
We have gained a lot of experience, knowledge and expertise over the last 9 months and would be happy to talk to you and share some of that experience if you are contemplating your own WOC.