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£1.5 million Investment to Tackle Homelessness in London

26 March 2013

£1.5 million is being put towards a scheme to help those who have been homeless move from high cost, high intervention accommodation to independent living.

An initiative of Commonweal Housing, the Peer Landlord project is backed with investments from the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Trust for London.

The funding will be used to buy houses that are sub-let, via a housing charity, to support those at risk of homelessness or moving on from supported accommodation. Each household will:

  • be made up of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and
  • have as one of the tenants someone who is further along in their journey from homelessness and who can provide advice and support to their housemates – known as the ‘Peer Landlord’.

With social housing shortages reaching record highs, this new model will house those who do not need the level of care provided in supported accommodation but who are not ready to live without any support services.  In addition, with the costs of traditional supported housing models escalating, it is hoped the Peer Landlord scheme will demonstrate a more cost effective solution to local authorities and charities.

York University have been commissioned to undertake an independent evaluation of the project and will examine whether living in a Peer Landlord supported household can achieve positive social outcomes for the beneficiaries by:

  • improving their confidence;
  • developing independence and key life-skills; and
  • eventually helping them secure and maintain meaningful employment.

The Peer Landlord project is a social impact investment providing a guaranteed return of 4.32% to the investors plus a proportion of any increase in the value of the properties purchased.

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said:

“We make all of our social investments mission-first, with the social impact and needs of beneficiaries, organisations and the voluntary sector at the forefront of our mind, and are therefore pleased to provide part of the funds which will enable Commonweal to test out an innovative solution to help homeless people make the difficult transition to a settled home life.”

Antony Ross, Head of Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, said:

“This project has deep impact potential for the individuals directly supported. If proven successful, it can also drive market-level change by developing a best practice blueprint that can be replicated on a large scale. We are delighted to back this initiative alongside two of the more forward-thinking foundations in the impact investment space.”

Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive of Commonweal said:

“This is an exciting new model for social investment, bringing new funding in to support one of the innovative housing backed projects established by Commonweal.  As an action learning charity we are delighted to be working with all three of our social investment partners who have the foresight and vision to see the possibilities in the peer landlord project, the impact it can have on individuals as well as the strong foundations of the financial aspects of this deal.  We are looking forward to working with and learning from our investor partners over the coming years. ”

Chief Executive of Trust for London, Bharat Mehta OBE, said:

“The Peer Landlord model is an innovation that could have a huge positive social impact and save local authorities and charities money.

“For individuals who have experienced homelessness receiving advice and support from peers can be invaluable and peer support is exactly what this model offers.

“In addition, as investors in the Peer Landlord scheme, we will get a guaranteed return and a percentage share of any increase in the value of the houses. This is social impact investing at its best and we hope the model with be replicated by others.”


Notes to Editors

  1. The project will be run by Commonweal Housing, a charity which offers housing and support services to help individuals establish themselves in life.  The investors’ backing will finance the acquisition of freehold properties, which Commonweal will lease to housing charities for a fixed 5-10 year contract. These charities – Thames Reach and Catch22, that have helped develop the project – will in turn sub-let property to tenants who are transitioning from a supported housing model.
  2. About Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
    Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.

    The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK.  We make grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. We also operate a £21 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.
  3. About Bridges Ventures
    Bridges Ventures LLP (“Bridges Ventures”) is a specialist fund manager dedicated to using an impact-driven investment approach to create superior returns for both investors and society at large. Bridges Ventures has raised six funds to date which total almost £300m: Sustainable Growth Funds I, II and III, the Bridges Sustainable Property Fund, CarePlaces Partnership and the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund.
  4. About Trust for London
    Trust for London is the largest independent charitable foundation funding work which tackles poverty and inequality in the capital. Annually we provide around £7 million in grants and at any one point we are supporting some 400 voluntary and community organisations. We are particularly interested in work that is viewed as challenging and we are willing to take risks. We also want to make sure that we are able to respond to new issues and ideas and find creative ways of tackling deep-rooted problems relating to poverty and inequality.  The Peer Landlord project is funded through Capital for London – a Trust for London programme to fund investments that can offer both financial and social returns. Entirely separate from the Trust for London's grant programme, Capital for London does not affect the amount of funding available for grants.