Guest columnist Wren Laing, Investment Director at Big Society Capital writes:
“It reminds me why I decided to work in social impact investing”- Wren Laing, Investment Director, Big Society Capital
As part of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme implemented in March 2020, 15,000 people experiencing homelessness were housed in temporary accommodation to protect them from the risks of COVID-19. To Big Society Capital and our partners in social investment, this was a stark reminder of the UK’s critical need for more long-term housing solutions. Where would these 15,000 people go once temporary accommodation ended?
In response, we came together with partners across the sector to develop funding solutions that would bring in social investment to tackle homelessness. One of these was the National Homelessness Property fund 2 (NHPF2): a social investment property fund managed by Resonance to provide affordable housing and wrap-around support to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It aims to scale nationally, but will first be introduced in Greater Manchester and the North West.
To Manchester, and beyond
I’m delighted that this fund will be bringing Resonance’s homelessness property fund model to Greater Manchester. Homelessness is a critical issue in the city – with statistics showing that the numbers of people sleeping rough increased by 487% between 2010-2018. It’s been a priority issue for their Mayor Andy Burnham for a long time, and it was exciting to see this fund being supported by investment from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester Pension Fund.
I hope that, in time, this model can continue to be replicated in more areas where homelessness is an issue and to see further partnerships developing between local authorities and their regional institutional investors. I’ve even recently had enquiries about how the social investment property fund model can be replicated in Canada – where I’ve been working from home in Toronto for the past few months. So, a few years down the line, I can see the potential for this model to be replicated globally.
Coming together in a crisis
In times of urgent need, people often come together more effectively to realise their aims, and this was certainly true for the teams working on the NHPF2. Even with the extra challenges of working remotely, they remained focused on their end goal, and have now secured millions of pounds of new investment towards tackling homelessness in just a few months.
We’re very proud to have supported Resonance in all but one of its social property funds since 2012. So far, they have raised more than £200 million and provided 800+ homes across the UK, so it’s great to see them continue to replicate this model. It’s when I’m working on funds like the NHPF2 that I’m reminded of why I decided to work in social impact investment in the first place. Not only do they have the potential to bring in financial return, but to provide effective support to people who need it.
It’s very exciting that this fund aims to bring together a wider range of investors and charity partners to join efforts in tackling homelessness in the wake of COVID-19, and I look forward to seeing the continued expansion of this work – across the region and beyond.
Wren joined Big Society Capital as an Investment Manager in September 2017. Her work focuses on BSC’s housing investment strategy strand, where she leads on the affordable housing and private rented sector investment initiatives.
Prior to joining Big Society Capital, she was part of the Housing and Land Directorate at the Greater London Authority, working on investment solutions to help increase the delivery of affordable housing across London.
Wren is Canadian and moved to the UK to complete her MSc at the London School of Economics prior to working as part of the development team on the transformation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Wren’s interests and expertise include affordable housing delivery and its impact on urban economic development in the UK and developing countries abroad.
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