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.
Hello and welcome to the Social and Supported Housing Partnership UK!
We are so excited to be launching our new community via Facebook LIVE this evening: 08.10.20!
For those that don't know me, I'm Amy Varle, a social entrepreneur who since 2012 has been working with partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors to design, develop and deliver housing-led solutions for homelessness resolution.
I’ve researched extensively to discover new techniques and best practice, both in the UK and the USA, and in 2018 I published a white paper on concepts and solutions, which went all the way to Downing Street.
I’m super proud to sponsored by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust as I now bring my conceptual designs to life and launch the Social and Supported Housing Partnership UK, with an incredible team of people.
For much of this year, I’ve been working closely with 20+ amazing human beings, who between them, bring an abundance of talent, skill, resources and diversity to the homelessness and social housing sector.
Led by the Trust, we work closely as a national strategy group: Educating, innovating, creating and collaborating to deliver the highest-quality schemes of social and supported housing, for homeless individuals and households all over the UK.
You can see some of the projects I'm personally working on at present below.
We are super excited to now be extending our community and private online space to include our trusted workplace friends, colleagues, clients and partners, so that we can innovate, create and share solutions together, and on a wider scale.
If you're active in this sector and passionate about making a difference, please join the movement and add yourself to the private Facebook community below:
Social and Supported Housing Partnership UK Facebook Community
Our founding members will introduce themselves over the coming weeks and months and I’m certain that if you work or volunteer in the field of homelessness resolution, social or supported housing, you will find the content they share educational, interesting and engaging .
Please introduce yourself when you join and feel free to post your questions, comments and experiences!🥰
Lets work together to end homelessness for as many people as we can. 💪
Social Property Investment: Designing Schemes of Supported Accommodation for Homelessness Resolution
If you're new to creating schemes of supported accommodation for homelessness resolution - whether you're coming from a property background, or are led by a passion for care and support - the systems and processes involved can seem daunting, complicated and overwhelming.
There may be many agencies and organisations involved in the design and creation process, and these will most likely be spread right across the public, private, third and voluntary sectors. Each will have their own unique systems and processes and they will all work at a different pace to each other.
Over the next few posts, we are going to look at the consortiums surrounding schemes of supported accommodation, and most importantly, the ideal order of engagement with each service so that your project can evolve seamlessly and without unnecessary delays.
One of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make as you enter this sector is to place too high an emphasis on the accommodation or building of choice, at too early a stage in proceedings.
I know how it feels to have what seems like the most perfect property land in your lap – and, to get completely carried away with an 'ending-homelessness' dream that simply isn’t going to be viable for a non-profit provider, or one that is not wanted or needed by a local authority host.
I myself have been guilty of falling head-over-heels in love with a derelict building and spending months and months redesigning it in my head, desperately trying to make it work without success.
You can waste a LOT of time – and you can waste a LOT of money.
I often compare my role of designing schemes of supported housing for homelessness resolution with building a jigsaw. I may need ten pieces of the puzzle to complete the finished product and they all need to fit together in sync if the design is going to come to fruition as it is displayed on the box.
Experience has taught me that the order in which I place the pieces is important, with the building or property usually the very last piece of the puzzle I select:
Recently in our Social Strategy Group, we had a member who was looking to acquire a site, which, on paper, seemed ideal to meet the needs of the local area and homeless community. Thankfully, she reached out to the group in order to conduct a second layer of due diligence before making a large financial commitment.
It was a very good job she did, as the specialist local provider she was connected with shared that the property was located in a pocket of the town which was notoriously dominated by criminal gangs - it would be completely unsuitable for a vulnerable tenant group and unlikely to be approved by the governing local authority, or to have the much-needed support of the local police force.
This could have been a purchase that very quickly became a nightmare situation for the buyer, with limited exit options available to them - and a six-figure sum trapped in the liability of an un-lettable building, in an undesirable area.
When working in this niche environment, it is far easier, cheaper and less stressful to start at the source and firstly discover the needs of the people who will ultimately be delivering the service – and, most crucially of all, the needs of residents who will be occupying the space and making this project their new home.
So, who are some of the parties involved when creating a scheme of homelessness resolution via a supported accommodation project?
I have found I can interact with anywhere between 10 and 50+ contributors per scheme. Here, you can see some of the partners I've engaged and worked with on this bespoke project I am consulting on in Lancashire:
Connecting with on-the-ground respondents as early on in the process as possible will ensure that your concepts are designed around the diverse needs of a community and that they fit with the structure and future plans of the services which are already in operation.
Teamwork makes the dream work and you need a strong consortium of partners and contributors who are both adding and taking away value from the project in equal measure.
If you are starting out in this sector, take some time to research and understand the local areas you are interested in working in – connect with charitable organisations, grassroots groups and members of the voluntary sector. Talk to the governing local authority and carefully review their strategies and policies online. Look to build mutually beneficial relationships with your potential partners and collaborators and let them be involved in the design and build of your schemes, from the ground up.
Remember, you can create the most attractive development of social housing in the world – but if there is no provider who can run it, no tenants who can occupy it, and no formal agreement made in advance with regards to payments of rent - you may find that you have inadvertently invested in a completely nonviable building that you then need to somehow find an exit strategy for.
In the next part, we will look at the ideal order of engagement and how you can work effectively with your consortium to speed up the process of having a proposal agreed and accepted.
The Social Strategy Group is a community of innovation and collaboration focused towards resolving homelessness through appropriately supported housing. For more information or to join us, click here
Its been three whole months since launching our Social Strategy Group with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and what a brilliant time in my life it has been! *I LOVE OUR GROUP*
Our aim is to create good-quality schemes of homelessness resolution which are designed around the needs of local communities and the people that they serve. We aim to work together, share our resources, link partnerships and empower each other to improve standards across our sector.
We have had a very busy and exciting few months!
My favourite feedback from one of our members up to now has been:
'This is by far the best value program that has ever been available in UK property education'
*We are here to disrupt, in a positive way*
The biggest thankyou to all contributing to our amazing, incredible, wonderful team, who are simply smashing it day by day. I am so proud to be working alongside some really special people and I'm looking forward to sharing lots more about each of them over the coming weeks and months.
If you'd like to join us, you can see more at www.amyvarle.co.uk/community
*This is a social enterprise project to benefit the whole of our sector, so I really do appreciate everyone that supports our work*
Our visit to Teardrops Hub in August 2020