Since launch, nine properties have been purchased to provide secure accommodation for women and children escaping violent and abusive relationships, with many more on the way.
The Women in Safe Homes fund – believed to be the world’s first gender-lens social impact investment property fund – launched in December 2020 to address the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes for women and children escaping violent and abusive relationships. By March of this year the fund had begun work on refurbishing the first nine properties with the first tenants being able to move into their new homes this autumn.
This is just the beginning for the fund which raised £15.5m from four seed investors: Big Society Capital, MacArthur Foundation, Keith Breslauer (Patron Capital managing partner) and Lostand Foundation. At the end of April 2021, the fund size increased to above £20 million following investment from new investors.
The fund is run by social impact investment company Resonance and Patron Capital Partners, an established European property investor, and aims to raise £100-£200m to secure 650-1300 properties and house over 6,000 women.
The fund buys and refurbishes properties which are then leased to specialist Women’s Sector Organisations (WSOs), who then let them at affordable rates to women at risk of homelessness, whilst also providing them with individualised and specialist support enabling them to rebuild their lives.
Properties vary in sizes depending on specific circumstances and the needs of the women housed. The homes already secured are spread across the North East, South East and the South West of the UK. The properties acquired are refurbished and developed to make them safe, secure and affordable while the environmental credentials of each are also enhanced.
The Women in Safe Homes fund is committed to addressing the gender equality challenges faced by women that can lead to homelessness. Gender lens investing is the practice of investing for financial return while also considering the benefits to women, both through improving economic opportunities and social wellbeing. This gender lens is applied across all aspects of the fund, for example, the fund has an all-female Senior Board of Advisors with experience of these issues – including lived experience of homelessness – and across a wide range of finance, property, social and impact investing organisations.
Additionally, the fund also meets two of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations: Gender Equality, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and Sustainable Cities and Communities, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Other goals related to poverty, health and wellbeing and inequality are on track to be met.
Social impact investing seeks to help address the issues around women’s housing needs: 1.6m households are on social housing waiting lists; 57.2% of refuge referrals declined in 2019/20 (18.1% because of lack of capacity in refuges) and the 30% shortfall in the number of refuge spaces available.
Simon Chisholm, Chief Investment Officer at Resonance said: “This is exciting progress at this early stage following the fund’s launch. Investors can see the progress the fund is making with their investment.
“The Women in Safe Homes fund pulls together many charitable, care and support organisations which generously pool their resources and make a significant difference to society and to the lives of those in real trouble. And in doing so they also help their own valuable causes.”