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