The Women In Safe Homes (WISH) Fund, believed to be the world’s first gender-lens property fund, is being created as a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes for women who are experiencing homelessness, are ex-offenders, survivors of domestic abuse or have other complex needs.
Alongside the potential of a financial return for investors from rent and capital appreciation, the Fund has a strong focus on achieving substantial positive social impact by supporting women in challenging circumstances. This will be achieved by providing them with housing and access to the support networks needed to help them rebuild their lives by partnering with women’s sector charities.
Domestic Abuse is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children. In England and Wales alone, 1.3 million women experienced domestic abuse in 2017-18. Women’s Aid reports that 60% of women being referred to specialist refuges are being turned away, mainly due to lack of space. Housing and mental health are also intrinsically linked. Being homeless can make mental health issues worse and in turn, poor mental health can make it harder to cope with issues around housing. Mental health charity MIND reports that 79% of people with mental health problems said that their housing had negatively impacted their mental health and 42% had experienced homelessness in the past. The chronic lack of suitable housing options also results in 60% of female prisoners not having a home to go to on release.
Lack of access to safe, secure housing is the biggest barrier to people leaving abusive circumstances and without this, survivors of domestic abuse are often left with no option but to either return to a dangerous situation or put themselves at risk of further abuse or harm by sleeping rough or by becoming one of the thousands of hidden homeless.
Without a safe and secure home, it is that much harder to care for children, get a job or training placement, register with a GP and access health care, or arrange benefits.
The impact of women’s sector and homelessness charities to reliably scale up the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing in the community for this group is huge, with current property investment structures not tailored to their needs.
The Fund aims to provide around 750 affordable homes across the UK and has already formed its first partnership with leading women’s sector charity, Preston Road Women’s Centre in Hull, which will offer safe homes and help other women’s sector organisations to replicate its pioneering recovery model for women and children.
Charities or social enterprises focusing on women and homelessness, and which have an infrastructure that would enable them to lease properties and then rent them to women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, should get in touch.
Simon Chisholm, Resonance’s Chief Investment Officer said:
“We are excited to be partnering with Patron as joint Fund Manager on the WISH Fund and charity partners such as Preston Road Women’s Centre. The commitment from Big Society Capital will enable us to attract like-minded investors into the Fund so that we can purchase homes for women at risk of or experiencing homelessness and help make a real difference to their lives. Resonance brings a wealth of experience of how property funds can help solve the societal issue of homelessness gained through our existing Homelessness Property Funds, which to date have raised almost £200 million and bought and refurbished hundreds of properties, housing over 1,500 individuals and families.”
Lisa Hilder, Trustee and Treasurer of Preston Road Women’s Centre said:
“The WISH Fund will help expert women’s sector organisations all over the UK to help vulnerable women and children to avoid homelessness, rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential. National statistics tell us that on average, women will leave and return to a violent relationship seven times before making a permanent break from the perpetrator, often because they are unable to access suitable housing and support. When we provide safe housing and wrap-around support, the women we work with make that permanent break from the perpetrator first time round. The Fund and its social impact investment will enable more women and children to be safe and to live their lives free from violence and abuse.”