As well as jointly managing the Women in Safe Homes fund with Resonance, Patron Capital's founder and managing director Keith Breslauer has personally invested in the fund. In his blog post for Resonance, Keith explains how impact investing provides solutions to key societal issues including women's homelessness, caused by domestic abuse.
When Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in early January, he advised that there were specific reasons for which you could leave your home, including shopping for basic necessities, exercise and to avoid injury, illness or risk of harm. While shopping for groceries and going for a walk or run may be par for the course for most of us, hearing that third point, with domestic abuse given as a specific example, may have caused a sense of sadness or shock for those of us for whom home is a safe place. However, it will have come as no shock to the two-thirds of women in abusive relationships who suffered an increase in violence from their partners during the first lockdown. For some, lockdown was tantamount to a sentence.
None of this makes for comfortable reading, but it is vital that we pay attention because lessons can be learned here. The impact of a national lockdown here has been profound but even before the pandemic, the lack of safe and affordable homes for homeless women or women at risk of homelessness was acute. Now, the need for homes has become critical.
A Women's Aid survey showed that 38 of 45 service providers had reduced or suspended at least one service as of April 6, including services that provide shelter, a figure that already fell short of Council of Europe standards, and campaign groups wrote to hotel chains in April, asking them to open up rooms to those fleeing abuse. This shows a structural need for more reliable accommodation for vulnerable women in the UK, both in the pandemic and as we move out of restrictions.
Governments and charities are unable to fill the gap in funds needed to provide long-term housing solutions to homeless women or women at risk of homelessness. The difference an impact investment strategy can make is huge. This is why we set up the Women in Safe Homes fund, in partnership with social impact investment company Resonance, with seed capital from fellow impact investors Big Society Capital and the MacArthur Foundation. Believed to be the world’s first gender-lens social impact property fund, it aims to purchase assets and partner with charities to address the lack of safe affordable homes for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness or with other complex needs. We can create a return through rent and capital appreciation, making use of our investment background and network, while helping those who need it the most.
Underlying issues in society may have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but so has our awareness and understanding of them. Now, there is a growing body of investors looking for investment opportunities that provide a return alongside tackling social ills.
However, this is not an act of charity a zero-sum game, but one with significant upsides for every stakeholder, regardless of whether you’re an institutional investor or the beneficiary of any of the remarkable charities we will partner with to execute the strategy of Women in Safe Homes. Crucially, in a market where many are scrambling to understand structural changes and provide realistic valuations, there is a supply-and-demand imbalance that makes impact investments outright attractive. I believe that we are all on this earth for a reason, and if we’re in a position to help others then that is absolutely what we should do.
I have invested in the Women in Safe Homes fund both financially and in terms of time and expertise as I believe that the financial and real estate sectors have much to offer in providing long-term solutions to society’s challenges. Its resources, ingenuity and sheer dynamism will need to be urgently harnessed if we are to build back a better society in the post-pandemic world.
Keith Breslauer, founder and MD of Patron Capital
Keith founded Patron Capital in 1999 and is Managing Director. Keith began his career at Lehman Brothers, where he worked for nine years and led many transactions in the US distressed markets in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In 1992 he began working in London to target the European distressed markets and assisted in creating and leading the Principal Finance Group to invest in financial institution and property assets and companies, and served as the co-head for the International Mortgage and Real Estate Department. In 1997, he left Lehman Brothers to create and manage an investment fund focusing on smaller European property and property-related opportunities which was a bridge to the ultimate formation of Patron.
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