New residential fund appoints former Nama executive Felix McKenna as CEO

Urbeo Residential plans to invest in long-term rental accommodation in Ireland

Felix McKenna, Urbeo Residential’s new chief executive. He was previously a member of the Nama executive team, and is a former director of property services at Eircom

Felix McKenna, Urbeo Residential’s new chief executive. He was previously a member of the Nama executive team, and is a former director of property services at Eircom

 

Former Nama executive Felix McKenna has been appointed as chief executive of Urbeo Residential, a new fund established to invest in long-term rental accommodation.

This will include social and affordable housing and will be primarily focused on the Dublin area. The entity was previously known as the Dublin Artisan Development Fund but has now been rebranded as Urbeo Residential.

Urbeo’s establishment follows a successful pilot scheme at New Bancroft in Tallaght, which was acquired in July for €33 million.

New Bancroft is a 131-unit portfolio that is close to being fully let and Urbeo is now considering “future funding options” to scale up its investment activity in 2018.

It is understood that the founders believe there is an appetite among Irish and international pension funds to provide long-term capital for asset-backed investments in the Irish rental market, particularly at a time of low corporate and government bond yields and strong rentals here.

Goodbody Corporate Finance has been engaged to advise Urbeo on its potential options with any activity likely be through some form of private placement rather than a stock market listing.

Urbeo is focused on attracting domestic and international institutional investment into the private rental sector, especially at the lower end of the market where there has been limited investor interest.

Voluntary sector

The fund will target a proportion of social and affordable housing tenancies using various government schemes, and through collaboration with the voluntary sector.

Urbeo is backed by the State’s Irish Strategic Investment Fund, which has a 48 per cent stake, and a group of experienced Irish property investors including co-founders Bill Nowlan and Frank Kenny.

Mr McKenna, who took up his new role on October 2nd, was previously a member of the Nama executive team, and is also a former director of property services at Eircom.

Crucial role

According to Urbeo chairman Kevin Murphy, a former chief executive of Irish Life: “We are very pleased to have recruited Felix to lead the team at Urbeo Residential. He brings with him 30 years of experience in the Irish property industry and will play a crucial role as we explore options to create a leading provider of high-quality rental accommodation.

“We aim to deliver sustainable communities of private, affordable and social housing. We hope to match investors’ interest in long-term and stable yields with tenants’ desire to live in well-managed rental units with long-term leasing options.”

Urbeo is not expected to be a direct developer of sites, but will consider the pre-funding of suitable projects, thereby providing a secondary market for residential builders.