Sarabjeet Singh

An interview with Sarabjeet Singh: A clear line of communication is the 'easiest thing' lenders and developers can do to support each other

In an exclusive interview with Development Finance Today, Sarabjeet Singh, general counsel at Hilltop Credit Partners (pictured above), discusses how lenders and developers can collaborate during the Covid-19 crisis, lessons learned and where the opportunity will lie after the pandemic.

How do you feel lenders and developers can better support each other?

A clear line of communication is the most important and the easiest thing both lenders and developers can undertake to support each other. These are unprecedented times, so an early warning from the developer can help the lender check if there are sufficient buffers in the facility. Similarly, in case a lender is deciding to freeze the credit line, an early indication to the developer will give ample time for them to look for alternatives.

Has there been any positive news of late in the property development industry?

I feel a big ‘positive’ for the development industry has been that work is still continuing on a lot of sites. Yes, timelines have been hit and practical completion dates may be missed, but developers are implementing additional safeguards on sites to comply with the government advice and pressing on with the developments. We have also heard of certain key developers being able to seek the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, which shows the importance of the sector, generally. As a final overarching point, we should also remember that, unlike the 2008 financial crisis, the real estate sector is neither the cause, nor the centre of this challenge.

After the lockdown is over and a new normality returns, which area of development finance do you think has the most opportunity for growth?

There cannot be a certain answer to this question as the entire Covid-19 situation is so fluid and we are (by some estimates) not even halfway through the entire lockdown phase. However, there is a structural shortage of affordable housing in the UK. The impact of Covid-19 and general economic slowdown will sadly see the housing crisis worsen. Therefore, the housing sector will continue to see a demand-supply mismatch and there will remain to be a growth opportunity in this sector.

How did you get into the industry?

My background is in banking finance. As in-house counsel in my previous role, I was exposed to a wide variety of real estate finance and, since then, I have enjoyed working in this sector. I would say this is largely due to the complexity and the fact that lawyers play quite an important role in such financings.

If you weren’t in finance, what would you be doing?

That is a tough one but, for now, I can say that I would be doing something in technology as that fascinates me.

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