Agile Homes is a Bristol-based company with a vision to create a people-centred housing model as a radical alternative to the current housing market, in order to help everyone have an affordable home and a better quality of life.
City Funds contributed £100,000 to help Agile Homes design and deliver high quality modular, low carbon and affordable eco-homes for rooftops and land unavailable to mainstream house builders. We sat down with Linda Farrow, Director and Co-founder of Agile Homes, to discuss why impact investment was the ideal fit for their mission.
What social or environmental problem is Agile trying to solve?
The UK housing market is out of sync with people’s earnings. As a result, home ownership and affordable rental is out of reach for many of us, whether in Bristol or beyond. Agile Homes’ people-centred, climate-friendly housing combines natural materials with design innovation. This means we can deliver beautiful, affordable homes to people in housing need, at speed, capturing carbon in the building fabric as we go.
How is your commercial value proposition connected to the impact you want to make?
We believe that a safe, civil home is a basic human right. Conventional housing is unaffordable and takes too long to build. Housing materials can also damage the environment – through cement used in construction for example and poor insulation that wastes energy, costing too much for both people and planet.
Agile clients typically need homes quickly – this could be people at risk of homelessness, loved ones who want to retain independence close to carers or those of us who need space for new arrivals or university returners.
Our Agile build-system minimises land costs and produces efficient homes, meeting space standards and planning requirements in less time than it takes to conveyance a standard house. We also signpost affordable finance along the way. So, as we put more keys in affordable front doors, more quickly, we give more people homes to be proud of and reduce their life-time carbon.
Tell me about the major milestones you’ve hit and why you needed investment.
We are proud to have developed our turnkey solution for affordable, new homes that respect people and planet. In our first two years, using both personal funds and investment from our seed-funding round, we gained traction from our first show home in Filwood and now have a strong pipeline of projects in Bristol and the South West.
Building more homes and growing a sustainable, resilient supply chain needs more working capital. And that’s where Bristol City Funds comes in.
Why did you seek out impact investors, rather than pursue typical sources of investment?
Agile is a values-led company. We help communities address the twin challenges of affordable homes and climate change, without compromising either. As a result, the social and commercial purposes of Agile Homes and Bristol City Funds are closely aligned. It makes perfect sense to work with City Funds as an impact investor and leverage value from our shared networks. We believe that this common purpose provides the foundation for a long-term relationship.
How are you going to use the funds, and how is that going to benefit Bristol?
The funds are being used as a “project accelerator”, enabling a Bristol client to reduce the financial risks of a scheme to help with homelessness in the city. When completed, the project will provide both homes and rental income to contribute towards the client’s charitable activities in the Bristol city area.
Once the working capital is released from this project, we aim to use the funds for further Bristol-based projects. This will complete a “virtuous circle” of continued investment and delivery for people in our home city who need a safe, warm place to live.
Congratulations on a successful funding round! What do you know now that you wish you knew when you set out?
Getting investment from the right place takes time. So, start early and take the time to get like-minded people excited about your idea. Build your network and keep it personal – a single “raving fan” with a network aligned with your values can connect you with many more potential funders.
Also, start thinking about your next funding round well before you really need money in the bank. And keep your existing investors well-informed and engaged with your future plans. They will very likely invest further and give you a flying start to the next round.
What’s next for Agile?
The future is looking bright for us, our investors and our clients. We are getting ready to deliver our largest projects yet in 2022 – 15 homes in Bristol and 18 homes in Frome.
We have also started our next investment round, with promising progress towards our funding target. This means we can grow our team to put more keys in front doors for people in housing need. So, watch out for an Agile home, somewhere near you, sometime soon!
Business name: Agile Homes
Mission: To design and deliver high quality, low carbon, affordable homes for anyone in housing need.
Value proposition: Design and rapid delivery of high quality, affordable homes, removing or minimising land acquisition costs, using modern methods of construction, intelligent application of planning know-how, material-based carbon sequestration and access to tailored finance.
Legal form: Private limited company
Amount and type of investment: £100,000 interest only loan repayable in 2 years. Potential to consider loan to equity conversion.