An open door: reimagining the marketplace through social housing

An open door: reimagining the marketplace through social housing

A guest blog from Benjamin Rick, Co-founder and Managing Director at Social and Sustainable Capital, a partner of our sponsor CCLA.

Good investment relies on good thinking, which is why we’ve supported the Pagoda this year. The reimagined venue is a space for wider conversations and bigger debates – a place to explore all angles, for a truly rounded view. CCLA, good thinking all ways round.

Imagine being released from prison. The door opens, you step onto the street and there is no one there. You’ve been given your leaving prison allowance. It will last one day when you have bought some food and found B&B to stay that night. Then what?

For so many vulnerable people in society, the risk of homelessness casts a dark shadow. Crime or the streets. Abuse or being on the run. War and famine, or poverty and isolation far from home. Those in this situation may lack a support system, or their needs may be too great for their family to help.

This is where Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) fits in. We are a social investment company. We lend money to exceptional charities which are rooted in their communities, helping the poorest and most vulnerable. Finance gets a bad press and, in some cases, that’s right. But social investment aims to be different.

Our mantra is to offer patient finance to those who add the most to society. We work hard to understand what a charity does; listen to what it needs; and care enough to work together to find the right solution.

In 2018 we began work on a new fund – Social and Sustainable Housing (SASH) – that targets one of the key causes of inequality and social injustice of our age: housing. We worked with some inspirational charities to try and understand the key issues around housing their clients, and realised we could help.

By providing loans to buy a portfolio of properties, we help charities to offer not just support but also safe, stable and appropriate housing to their clients. Our borrowers are clear that this will lead to lasting impact and a more secure future for the most vulnerable. This approach also makes charities more resilient by putting assets on their balance sheet and giving them long-term control over their future.

As fund managers, we need to find investors who invest in our funds because they see the value of what we do. We launched SASH in May with £26.5m from 19 investors. A number are new to social investment and, crucially, one of them was an institutional asset manager: CCLA. This was a game changer for SASC. It showed we had developed a product that appealed to commercial investors who are increasingly focussed on impact.

Imagine if more mainstream investors could see the potential of social investment. For some years, those of us who believe in the third sector as the source of stable returns have been trying to find the right product to connect commercial capital with the considerable need for socially impactful projects. And we may have found it.