Sharing homes, sharing progress

Commonweal’s Peer Landlord project is set to shift up a gear, with great results and £1.5m in social investment, reports CEO Ashley Horsey.

Commonweal’s Peer Landlord project of supportive shared houses has taken off over 2012 and is set for further expansion over the coming year.

The model developed with Thames Reach and Catch22 revolves around the principle of a more advanced tenant (the Peer Landlord) providing informal, positive, role model peer support to other, less advanced tenants in the household.

The model seeks to show how shared housing, something traditionally seen as unattractive, not wanted or not suitable for many people, can become a positive option helping individuals develop new skills, resilience and positive social relationships. It helps to provide a bridge between traditional supported housing and hostels and the mainstream private rented sector, which is the destination for most clients as access to social housing reduces.

The Peer Landlord model is also helping our project partners to develop their relationship with their clients, helping them to build independence amongst those clients ready for it, so they can move away from any sense of ongoing support dependence. Cultural as well as operational shifts.

The need for this type of model is growing all the time as the Government’s welfare benefit reforms really start to hit home. Changes mean that a self-contained flat becomes an impossibility for growing numbers of individuals and is completely unavailable for any single person reliant on benefits under the age of 35.

Recognising that the world is moving on rapidly in this field, Commonweal and our delivery partners are already in discussion with a range of local authorities who are seeking solutions for their single homeless clients. The potential exists for early replication of the Peer Landlord model over the coming year. We hope that if this occurs the findings can be included in the overall evaluation of the model, which is due in 2014.

Over 20 individuals have been helped to date, with this number set to rise rapidly in 2013 as we grow the property portfolio, thanks to social investment of £1.5m from three enlightened investors – Bridges Ventures, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Trust for London.

The action learning delivered already by the Peer Landlord project has been really important. Considerations include:

  • The preparatory training and information needed by peers and tenants to maximise the chances of a successful and stable household.
  • Specific support for the peer landlords in property management and maintenance, conflict resolution and relationship skills.

As the initial pilot phase progresses, Commonweal, Thames Reach and Catch22 along with our evaluation partner, the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York, are also starting to think about move on options and opportunities as well as reviewing again the underlying financial models and the ongoing support costs from the delivery partners.

Our evaluation has been helped by the expert input from Geoff Kendrick of Nomura Bank who provided guidance and advice on the economic metrics we should consider and seek to measure. This support for Commonweal was organised with the help of the charity Pro Bono Economics.

The intention remains to seek a sustainable, cost effective business model that is clear on what levels of support are required to ensure tenancies are sustainable and households are stable; how much such support and management costs; and where this can be funded from. In addition, the evaluation of the model seeks to capture the personal impact and outcomes for those housed as peers and as tenants.

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