Social investment support is growing in fragmented Transitional Supported Housing market highlights new IPPR North report

The positive role that private capital, including social investment, can play in expanding the Transitional Supported Housing (TSH) market was highlighted today in a roundtable today led by think tank IPPR North.

IPPR North discussed the key findings of its new report, ‘At a crossroads – the future of transitional supported housing’, with guests including Josh Goodman, Director of Social Housing at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Imogen Blood from Imogen Blood & Associates who has produced extensive research into supported housing, Ben Rick, Managing Director, Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), who launched a Social and Sustainable Housing Fund to support charities in this sector, and representatives from housing bodies and charities who provide transitional supported housing.

IPPR North’s Research Fellow Marcus Johns called the sector the ‘Cinderella’ of housing. He said 189,500 people are housed within the TSH market, but there is little accurate data on it, and it is hugely diverse, complex, and hard to define.

Market challenges include the lack of sustainable funding, a scarcity of quality housing, a lack of clear policy from government and no regulation to ensure landlords provide the high-quality housing people deserve.

IPPR North’s recommended the need for greater sustainable funding to improve this market – suggesting government commits an initial capital investment of £900 million to help vulnerable people have homes and support, they need to avoid homelessness and build their independence.

Josh Goodman, Director of Social Housing at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government highlighted that this week the government has announced a £11.5 bn investment into an affordable housing programme and 10 percent of the homes would be for transitional supported housing.

IPPR also advocated that a ‘people led’ approach to solving key issues was vital and that the voices of people living in transitional supported housing must be heard. This, coupled with a joined up, strategic approach from government, housing bodies, charities, and other stakeholders would lead to better outcomes.

IPPR said charities are starting to play a more prominent role in delivering supported housing and welcomed their engagement

Unlike many private landlords, they understand their residents’ support needs, as well as their housing needs and this can lead to better outcomes. Charities can provide the wrap around support that people move towards independent living and not get stuck in the system.  Increasingly, some charities in this space are being supported with funding from social investors, like SASC so they can become property owners.

One example is Hull Women’s Network, a charity that provides safe, supported housing for women fleeing from domestic abuse in Hull and links them into the holistic services and activities available at the women’s centre to support their recovery. Lisa Hilder, Trustee, Hull Women’s Network said her charity acts like a ‘bridge’ to support these women and help them start afresh.

Social investment funding has accelerated the charity’s work in recent years. Hull Women’s Network has received £5m of social investment funding from SASC’s new housing fund – Social and Sustainable Housing (SASH) –  and SASC funding has enabled it to add at least 75 additional properties to its portfolio and broaden its services to include crisis accommodation and move-on accommodation.

The SASH fund from SASC was created to enable charities like Hull Women’s Network become social landlords. SASC believes social sector organisations already delivering housing really understand the people they serve and are best placed to provide safe, secure housing and support that can change people’s lives.

SASC’s target for its fund is to provide homes for 10,000 people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming so, whilst generating appropriate returns for investors.

Ben Rick, Managing Director of SASC, explains, “The IPPR report has shone a light on the complexity of the issues in the transitional supported housing market. It has also recommended some solutions including the need for more private capital investment and social investment, as well as the delivery of housing by charities and the importance adopting of a people-led approach. This is just the start of the conversation, but we are pleased that government, housing charities and other parties are coming together to debate solutions for this key market.”

“When we started SASC six years ago, we knew there was a major housing problem in the UK, which was most acute for vulnerable groups.  But when we met Lisa Hilder, we really understood the complexity, jargon and fragmentation that surrounds the issue of housing vulnerable groups. Three years on, having worked with 11 more charities in the space we have learnt a great deal.”

“There is a lot of private capital in this space – some are good investments, but other investments can leave investees with little choice or an unequal balance of power. At SASC we tailor social investment solutions to individuals, and we focus on bolstering the strength of the organisations we work with. Our SASH fund delivers a strong return on investment and is attracting capital, but this has been balanced always by the need to create an environment in which charities can operate safety, thrive and be financially sustainable.”