There will be a few of the larger registered providers (RPs) that will be eligible for one of the government’s financial support schemes, but it is going to be harder for the vast majority of RPs to access them.
Commercial paper facility
Businesses which make a significant contribution to the UK economy, including large RPs, are able to access the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF). The CCFF enables the issuance of short term debt known as commercial paper. We are aware of several large RPs that have taken advantage of this facility.
There is a requirement to demonstrate sound financial health prior to the Covid-19 shock and the simplest way to do that is through a public investment grade rating. However not having a public credit rating should not be a barrier in itself. As an alternative, companies can demonstrate that they have equivalent financial strength either by relying on their banks’ internal credit ratings or seeking a credit assessment from one of the credit rating agencies.
In addition RPs need to have a V1 viability rating from the Regulator for Social Housing (Regulator). It is possible and perfectly reasonable for a large RP to have a G1/V2 rating from the Regulator and still have an investment grade rating. So for now, this V1 requirement could unfairly prevent some RPs from accessing the CCFF, but we understand that pressure is being applied to change this requirement so watch this space.
The CCFF will be in place for 12 months for amounts up to £300m for RPs.
COVID-19 loan schemes
On the face of it, smaller RPs could qualify either for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) or the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS). However these schemes are principally targeted at SMEs (see our update on 21 April) which means there is generally a requirement to demonstrate that more than 50% of your turnover comes from trading.
In principle charities are eligible for the scheme, but the British Business Bank, which is running the CBIL scheme, has specifically stated that RPs which are partly or mainly grant-funded will not be eligible. Thereby excluding the vast majority of RPs, other than potentially for-profit RPs if they can meet the other criteria.
Guidance on the Bank of England website was changed on 11 June 2020 to remove the requirement for a V1 grade for viability from the Regulator.
The updated guidance states: “The facility is open to large housing associations who will be assessed with reference, among other things, to their revenue streams.” Holding an investment grade credit rating, or being deemed to have equivalent financial strength by the banks for the relevant association and a condition that organisations make “a material contribution to the UK economy” still form part of the requirements for eligibility.
Need more information or advice?
The banking and finance team at Bevan Brittan can assist with queries about the various schemes.
For further support relating to the impact of COVID-19, please view our COVID-19 Advisory Service page.