John Dunn has worked in the housing sector for over 30 years. So how did he make the leap from Housing Association Director to Property Fund Development Manager for Resonance's Homelessness Property Funds?
John writes for us in his blog post:
Six months ago, if you would have asked me about my experience of large property funds, I would have said that in the main they are fairly rapacious beasts. They would swoop into markets buying up homes, setting rents at the highest level the market could take, excluding anyone who might pose the slightest risk as a tenant and rent payer, even if these were the very people who were most in housing need.
And all of this was done with a view to achieving the maximum return on their investment with little or no interest shown in the impact this might have on the local community.
So, has my experience of working with and for Resonance changed my view that all large property funds are the same? The short answer is yes.
Let me begin, by telling you how I joined Resonance.
After 30 years with a large housing association in Greater Manchester, I thought I was winding up my housing career with a piece of consultancy for the Greater Manchester Housing Providers Group (GMHP).
This was aimed at delivering a Greater Manchester ethical lettings agency that would lease properties from the private sector and enable those on social registers to access properties previously denied to them because of previous debt, lack of references, intermittent work records, low incomes or more simply “No DSS”.
One of the objectives of the project was (and still is) to find as many landlords as possible that would lease properties to the ethical lettings agency in numbers that would enable it to maximise its impact, and it was as part of this conversation we were introduced to Resonance who were setting up a new Homeless Property Fund to be launched in the North West.
I’d spoken to a number of funds and investors during my career and to be honest, they’d left me with a deep cynicism about the sector as a whole and left me with the impression I shared at the top of this post (it’s one I know many ex-colleagues in local authorities, housing associations and similar, still hold).
My view at the outset, therefore, was to see if there was any chance we could afford what they were selling but to also maintain a healthy scepticism as to what they might offer.
It wasn’t however a position I sustained for long.
I met two great ambassadors for Resonance (John Williams and Kay Orlopp) who appeared really authentic as they delivered their message; they were here to help to connect capital to social purpose. Buying properties that would be leased to like-minded organisations, setting rents at rates and levels the low paid and those on benefits could afford, and creating long term sustainable tenancies within properties properly refurbished and managed.
In fact, they said they would deliver on many of the things I held, and continue to hold, as essential building blocks in a decent, fair and functional society. I warmed to Resonance and supported their efforts to partner with the Greater Manchester Ethical Lettings Agency and play a part in delivering solutions to the housing crisis.
After completing my consultancy with GMHP I was again preparing to take a step away from work when a position came up with Resonance as a Property Fund Development Manager. It seemed intriguing, providing an opportunity to continue working in an area I still can’t help getting passionate about, and to continue to learn as I do it. I took a punt, and here I am.
I have to say that after six months and despite the best endeavors of COVID-19, I haven’t regretted a moment of it.
The social impact mission of Resonance runs through the DNA of its people from top to bottom, and I am genuinely pleased that I went with my instinct when I believed that working for Resonance wouldn’t compromise my values. It hasn’t, and I wouldn’t still be here if I couldn’t say that.
So now, alongside my colleagues in the Property Team, I work on tackling homelessness through two of our property funds:
National Homelessness Property fund 2 - providing move-on homes for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the Greater Manchester region
Resonance Supported Homes Fund - providing residential, person-focused homes for adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental illness who are currently living in inappropriate housing
My role sees me helping Resonance broaden its partnerships, its geography, and its social impact. I help to make the case for investment into the funds, to socially responsible investors and I lend my experience wherever my perspective might be of use.
Now more than ever we need creativity and innovation when looking at how we might weave a response that will help to address the range of increasingly complex housing needs. And now, six months on, I’m confident that social impact investment property funds, in the right hands, can be part of the solution.
Find out more about our Homelessness Property Funds.
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Resonance Limited is a company registered in England and Wales no. 04418625
Resonance Impact Investment Limited, a subsidiary of Resonance Limited, is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Firm number 588462.
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