I've been a little quieter than planned recently as I've been giving real consideration to the Social and Supported Housing Partnership UK community's role and responsibilities within the sector, and to the vulnerable people we each ultimately serve.
The long lease model in social and supported housing is a relatively new way of working, one which on paper seems to finally answer all of our prayers. A proposal that delivers unlimited access to new and high-quality housing resources, financial support and hands-off maintenance.
For the grassroots organisations fighting daily to stop an increasingly unmanageable number of people from freezing to death on the streets, this is beyond a dream come true.
And if the model was used fairly and with full transparency, it absolutely would be.
The problem is, some of the people and organisations inserting themselves into the middle of these arrangements have no place in our sector at all.
I've operated in this field for almost twenty years and my experience has been unique, vast and far-reaching. In my opinion, the long lease model has allowed a toxic cancer to creep through our sector; one which prays on the very people we are ultimately aiming to help.
Formally entering into a long lease arrangement with an institutional fund involves signing a watertight inflation-linked decades-long contract; delivery of which can be completely unsustainable for the organisations who become duty bound to provide the services.
Largely, its not the funds OR the providers that are the problem. We need their money, their housing and their services in our sector.
Its a small group of people who are aggressively pushing paperwork in the middle, who have little care for creating social investment schemes that benefit anyone but themselves. Over the last year, I've lost count of the amount of people trying to deceive me with a badly-disguised private equity fund pitch.
Presently, there are 11 non-profit housing associations placed under non-compliance special measures by the Regulator of Social Housing for their involvement in the long lease model, and another 20+ under scrutiny.
I know of one non-profit provider persuaded to commit to payments of £700 per person, per room, per week, for twenty five years. Another, left with a lease bill liability in excess of £170 million pounds. One, that tragically lost a tenant to suicide when support wasn't delivered as the result of an agreement breaking down.
I'm saddened to learn that we have members of our community who have historically been negatively affected by long lease deals and I fully understand the turbulence and emotional distress this must cause.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to have knowledge of each of our member's business dealings away from the group and it would be wrong of me or any of our members to comment, give opinion, or insert themselves into any complex or messy legal situations here.
Please know that whilst I am working hard to provide a platform to assist with relationship development across sectors, this is a huge and complicated undertaking with many issues and points to consider.
Unfortunately, at present, I cannot endorse any of our group members, or give any guarantees about their work. However, I can share that we are working towards a rating and review system, which will eventually be accompanied by a formally recognised accreditation scheme.
I am also working to present an amended version of the long lease model to Central Government and the Regulator of Social Housing - one that is fair, ethical and sustainable, and puts the end user first.
We will be hosting a variety of learning and discovery days over the coming months, as well as partner matching events, which I hope will help our community to operate with trust and transparency as we move forward. If you'd like to be included or have any questions just comment below or send me a message.
I'll be live on my own Facebook page this evening at 8pm, where I will be talking more about this subject - feel free to PM any questions and do add me as a friend if we aren't connected already.