As we head into the coldest season of the year - and for much of the UK - a second lockdown, the recent announcement of government funding for long-term housing for homeless people in England will be especially welcome.
The early months of the pandemic shone a light on the true scale of homelessness in the UK, with almost 5,000 people recorded as sleeping on England’s streets on one night. Although swift action was taken and in March, with councils given funding to provide emergency shelter for homeless people, many of whom were housed in hotels and emergency accommodation which is both expensive and unsustainable as a long term solution and as funding levels were subsequently reduced as the pandemic slowed, many people found themselves back on the street. The critical challenge moving forwards is to develop long term sustainable housing solutions which provide some of the most vulnerable people in our society with the kind of support that they truly need.
Multi-million investment in a long-term solution
Now, the government has announced further funding of £150 million to provide 3,300 long-term homes for rough sleepers and vulnerable people in society by March 2021, a move that will be welcomed by homelessness campaigners as a step in the right direction.
But what if this level of government or institutional investment was channelled into community-owned housing projects, that not only pledge to support rough-sleepers and those at risk of homelessness, but that also ensure that the properties remain affordable in perpetuity and aren’t at risk of sale to developers in the future?
The community-based solutions
Around the UK, Community Land Trusts (CLTS) are seeking investment funding to create homes and businesses that are owned and run by communities, ensuring they are permanently affordable and for the people who need them most. While much of the investment needed can be raised by local people and retail investors, we believe that institutional investors can provide match-funding to create a huge long-term impact, creating a new model for housing that benefits communities first.
In Scotland, one community organisation is already working to build a new housing model to help the most vulnerable people who are currently sleeping rough on the streets of the Capital.
A new model for housing in Edinburgh
Common Ground Against Homelessness (CGAH) is a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society, based in Edinburgh, with the aim of ending long-term homelessness by allowing people to invest their money to help buy properties that will provide affordable ‘homes for life’ for people struggling with addiction problems living on the streets.
It is estimated that there are around 150 people with addiction problems (drugs and/or alcohol) who are sleeping rough in Scotland’s capital city. These people were thrown a lifeline during the Coronavirus outbreak, where, in a bid to get them safely off the streets, the Scottish Government and local authorities provided temporary accommodation for over 500 homeless people in Scotland, placing them in hotels and rooms that were vacant at the time.
CGAH’s mission is to find a permanent solution for homelessness for people who find it difficult to maintain their own homes, due to issues with addiction. They have launched a share offer to purchase a property in Edinburgh to be renovated to contain nine en-suite rooms and communal living areas. This property will be long-term leased to their charity partner Rowan Alba, who will use the space to provide permanent and supported homes for homeless people who are most at risk from repeat homelessness due to their problems with addiction, mirroring a similar successful development already run by the charity in Edinburgh.
Investors in the share offer will become joint owners of the property and will receive targeted returns of 5% on their investment. CGAH will ensure permanently affordable rent for the charity, addressing one of the key problems faced by homelessness charities - the long term and sustainable availability of affordable properties.
Blending finance for impact
Investors are getting behind the share offer, with £198,000 already invested. However, if a large investment from the corporate or public sector were to be blended with this capital, CGAH would be well on the way to raising the £650,000 target to ensure this project succeeds.
Investments of this type don’t just benefit the end-users - the people whose lives can be greatly improved by the provision of secure homes. Or the investors - who aim to receive a competitive return on their money, while becoming a part of something that benefits the community as a whole. But, it’s estimated that the public purse will also benefit from significant savings by taking people off the street and providing them with a home for life with dignity and choice.
Find out more about the Common Ground Against Homelessness here.
While CGAH is pioneering this approach in Edinburgh, around the UK, many other Community Land Trusts are seeking funding to enable them to realise their vision of affordable community housing and several of these are also currently listed on Ethex such as Somerset Co-operative CLT, Calder Valley CLT, Brighton & Hove CLT and Mustard Seed Property in Cornwall.
Please note that when investing in these share offers, capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.