Sink or swim – it’s tough to be sent to boarding school at the tender age of seven when home visits only happen once a term. Fortunately for Englishman James Hare he took to it like a duck to water. He was fanatic about sports and this meant he found his niche early on. In particular, James loved rugby, playing to a very high level (representational) while at school. He enjoyed rugby so much that he considered taking it up professionally. He probably just missed the transition from amateur rugby to professional in the UK and that would have meant his current project, Brikcoin, might never have seen the light of day. And Brikcoin is going to put James’ name on the map in the arena of social housing. It is an ill wind that blows no good.
Brikcoin is a very ambitious project. It seeks to tackle the chronic shortage of quality social housing in the UK. Actually, it is not just a lack of quality social housing but a lack of any social housing. Currently there are approximately 6,000 social homes built every year in the UK. This sounds fine until you understand that 120,000 are needed annually. The gap is huge and growing year on year. Governments, banks, local authorities, county councils are all stymied. In fact, they seem to be playing by an old set of rules that no longer works into today’s environment. The answer has been to sell off public land (from the public purse) to private developers. Often there is some requirement for private developers to build a percentage of social houses but equally as often this percentage is whittled down to a negligible number- if any at all. So the public purse is leaching its land to private capitalism without any long term benefit to the citizens.
Brikcoin looks to reverse this trend. Through extensive research and engagement with Members of Parliament, City and Borough Councils, Public Servants and stakeholders in housing, James and his team, have whittled down the most progressive path towards producing quality social housing. It is not feasible to lease the land from councils to build social housing – there are just too many impediments – but rather than sell the land to private developers whose sole ambition is to maximise profit, Brikcoin offers a unique funding and development solution. Brikcoin is raising funds to buy public land but the project will commit to building quality social housing with long leases back to the local council.
This has a number of key benefits. The first is that social housing will be built – at a far higher rate than currently happens. The second is that these quality homes will be leased back to the councils at affordable rents. The council still does the task of nominating appropriate tenants as per its social mandate. The housing will always be used for social housing. This is a permanent solution.
Brikcoin raised money initially via a private sale. However, it is now crowdfunding allowing anyone to get into the property market for a small sum. The investment is a gold standard as the underlying assets will be prime land and quality social housing.
So how did James end up moving from rugby to property development? Well after he finished school, he contemplated moving to South Africa where he could extend his schoolboy rugby career as 19 is the cutoff age there. He also looked at going professional. In the end, sense prevailed and he opted for a sports based university degree which he ironically hated. However, he had been excellent at maths in school and was offered a job working in Finance – in Dubai.
“I thought this could be a very nice three month holiday with pay,” he said. “Either way, I did not think I could lose.”
Instead, James again found his niche, only this time in Finance. “I loved my new job. Finally I found a career, outside of sport, that really interested me.”
James quickly rose up the ranks. The company offered private banking and financial advice. James became a wealth management advisor, a role in which he thrived. Shortly afterwards he was headhunted into being the Financial director of a construction company but found the role was too focused on spreadsheets.
“I really enjoyed the relationship side of my role, not totting columns.”
A happy meeting shortly afterwards with two Irish brothers interested in developing property led James into the area that excites him to this day – property and finance.
“The timing was excellent. In 2003 Dubai loosened its property ownership regulations. Until that time, foreigners were not allowed to own property but by changing the law, Dubai welcomed a huge wave of overseas investment into the country. It also welcomed a lot of speculative property investment with deposits taken and buildings commenced without full funding already in place.”
James operated in a very different model. “We were not selling off plan and reliant on the ongoing instalments to build the development. We were fully funded from the get go.”
This traditional and conservative approach to property finance stood James in good stead when the 2008 financial crash happened.
“Everyone else just stopped. They had no money nor access to money. We, on the other hand, were fully funded and kept on going. It was a good life lesson.”
James and his partner then looked at crowdfunding for the UK market. They put together a project, called Creation, which was based in the Isle of Man for legal security. They were looking at crowdfunding a number of projects but realised that each one needed to be handled separately in case one project stalled or even failed.
All was proceeding well until they focused more on investment banks, rather than individuals. “We learnt a lot over this time. We also spent a lot of money on putting our structures in place. However, we were let down in the end by banks who promised money and then failed to deliver. All was not lost, however, as we are using this experience – including dealing with the myriad of different stakeholders – to great effect this time around with Brikcoin.”
In the middle of the Creation project, James was also busy with developments in Africa and the US. He is not one to stay idle. But increasingly his view of what was happening at home sparked his passion which led to Brikcoin.
“Forty years ago we had enough housing – but over the intervening years successive governments have been, well frankly they have been negligent in their housing policy. Around the same time, I had a light bulb moment. I had just been introduced to blockchain and its democraticising ability. I knew we could put blockchain and the crowdfunding model together with property. It all made sense.”
Right now, as the main crowdsale is underway, James is hoping to announce his first project. This is imminent – in about six weeks – and once the first project is on the table he expects the rest of the sale to proceed at pace.
‘It’ll make total sense once we can unveil the first project. Brikcoin will go from being a concept to an actual developer with real houses, real contracts and real impact. We have large investors waiting in the wings to fund our first project.
“Our aim is to solve, once and for all, the housing crisis in Britain. And it is not just in Britain – it’s the modern malaise of the developed world. We want to roll out our proven solution across Europe and beyond.”
Brikcoin is only starting. In time too James expects the BRIK token to be used to pay rent, pay utilities and in the future maybe even to buy a property. Finally, James makes reference to the Brikcoin Foundation. With 5% of all transactions reserved for philanthropic activities, he hopes to make a difference beyond putting a roof over people’s heads.
Given his propensity for conservative property development, we can be sure the future is in good hands.
For more information, please visit the Brikcoin website.