Women in Safe Homes fund launched with backing of charity partners

Women In Safe Homes is a new fund fund, providing safe and secure homes for women experiencing homelessness, whether because they are out of the criminal justice system, are survivors of domestic abuse or have other needs.

An investment property fund to help homeless women has been launched. Women in Safe Homes is, the managers say, the first gender-lens £100 million investment property fund to support women experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

Launched by property investor Patron Capital and social impact investment company Resonance, the fund will partner with leading charities, including Preston Road Women’s Centre, Nacro, and Refuge.

Launching with an initial investment of £15.5 m (from the MacArthur Foundation, Big Society Capital and Lostand Foundation), the Women in Safe Homes fund will provide a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes for women experiencing homelessness, those involved with the criminal justice system, are survivors of domestic abuse or have other complex needs.

The fund aims to provide around 650 affordable homes across the UK. It will purchase properties and lease them to women’s sector organisations and homelessness charities which, in turn, will rent homes to women at risk of homelessness with a secure tenancy.

Preston Road Women’s Centre and Refuge will provide specialist and housing support to help women recover from abusive or difficult circumstances. Nacro will house women under its Bail, Accommodation and Support Service, enabling them to find stability, rebuild their lives and sustain their tenancies.

Homelessness for women is a different experience than for men, often rooted in trauma and violence. One of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children is domestic violence: 1.6 million1 women in the UK experienced domestic abuse in 2019. Around 60% of women prison leavers do not have a home to go to on release. Since COVID-19, the situation has worsened with greater demand for services and support.

The fund has been developed over more than two years in collaboration with leading women’s sector organisations and networks, including Women’s Aid, to ensure that it responds to the lived experience of women and the social enterprises that support them. It takes a gender-lens approach to all aspects of its operation to ensure its impact is led by women’s voices, experiences, and requirements.

The fund is open to institutional, pension funds and professional investors in the UK and internationally. While there is the potential of a financial return from rent and capital appreciation, the strong focus is on achieving substantial positive social impact by supporting women in challenging circumstances.

Keith Breslauer, Managing Director of Patron Capital, said: “The case for impact investing has never been more relevant than it is right now, with the pandemic both exacerbating and shining a light on the societal issues that vehicles such as the Women in Safe Homes fund can look to address. We aim to make the fund’s first acquisition by the end of this year.”

Kay Orlopp, Resonance’s Property Fund Development Manager and lead on the Women in Safe Homes fund, adds: “Thousands of women in the UK are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness due to a chronic lack of suitable and affordable housing. This is particularly prevalent for women who have experienced domestic abuse and cannot live their lives in safety or are leaving prison with nowhere to go.

The Women in Safe Homes fund, a joint venture between Resonance and Patron Capital, will provide a social impact investment housing solution to this gendered housing need. Working alongside charity partners will deliver safe and affordable homes for vulnerable women who need them most.

Kay Ingram, director of public policy at financial planners LEBC, said: “This initiative will be welcomed by all those working in this sector to address homelessness and to provide secure shelter for the victims of domestic abuse, a  field in which our client Refuge strives to meet the growing demand of women and children forced to leave their homes due to domestic violence. At a time when investing with a social purpose is a key priority for many savers, this initiative meets ESG criteria. It deserves the support of those who want their money to be put to good use while making their savings grow.”

Resonance also recently launched a new social impact homelessness property fund, National Homelessness Property fund 2 (NHPF2), with an initial investment of £2n0 million and a target fund size of £50-£100m. The fund will partner with Let Us, a group of registered housing providers in Greater Manchester.

The fund will initially focus on purchasing affordable homes in the Greater Manchester region. It will expand nationally, aiming to grow to £100m over its lifetime and provide around 870 affordable homes across the UK. Target investors are institutional, pension funds, foundations and professional investors.

NHPF2 was created following the successful model of the National Homelessness Property Fund – which was launched in December 2015, purchasing 229 properties and housing nearly 600 people at risk of or experiencing homelessness – and in response to the growing need for affordable housing.

The fund works by acquiring properties and leasing them to the housing sector and homelessness charities to provide individuals and families at risk of homelessness with a settled home.

By partnering with housing providers, the fund will enable individuals and families to not only be provided with housing. Still, it will also signpost households to support the need to sustain their tenancy and improve their circumstances. The fund also aims to partner with charity partners who will support individuals and families to find employment or education, set down roots in the community, and save for a deposit to eventually move into the private rented sector with a track record of maintaining a tenancy.

Simon Chisholm, chief investment officer at Resonance, said: “With homelessness on the rise, the need for safe, decent and affordable housing is great; in Greater Manchester alone, over 80,000 people are on social housing waiting lists. Building on our previous property funds’ success, Resonance is proud to launch our next social impact property fund, the National Homelessness Property fund 2, which will initially focus on purchasing affordable homes across the North West.

“We are delighted that our first partnership is with Greater Manchester’s ethical lettings agent Let Us and that our initial investors into the fund Big Society Capital, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and – a first for a Resonance property fund, a pension fund investor, Greater Manchester Pension Fund – will enable the fund to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

City Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett, GMCA Lead for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already alarming crisis of housing and homelessness in this country, and its impact will be felt for many months to come. We face a dangerous winter that threatens to push many more people into hardship, and we should be doing all that we can to prevent further housing insecurity.

“The National Homelessness Property Fund is, therefore, a timely initiative, and our investment will help us to address the fast-rising demand for social housing and give people in our city region the security, stability and support they need. We want high-quality, truly affordable homes to be available to everyone across Greater Manchester. The follow-on fund announced today by Resonance is a positive contribution to that goal and towards tackling the housing and homelessness crisis within Greater Manchester.”

Cllr Brenda Warrington, Chair, Greater Manchester Pension Fund, said: “I am proud that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund can invest in the Resonance Homelessness Property fund 2.

“It’s important to me that we can make a sound and socially impactful investment which will help provide much-needed, affordable and refurbished accommodation for rent across Greater Manchester whilst still generating a return for the pension fund to enable it to meet the pension promises of our members, who mainly live and work in Greater Manchester.”

Further reading: Invest to fight homelessness through new impact fund

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