Five years into our Peer Landlord project, we’ve reached a crucial point; the commencement of the second phase of delivery, up until April 2018. There are thirteen properties up and running, leased to and managed by our partners Catch 22 & Thames Reach, with the first Phase having been evaluated by a team from the University of York. Phase One presented many obstacles, and plenty of scope for learning for us and our partners, learning that has compelled all involved to adapt and evolve the provision of this supportive shared housing model. Indeed, we are now at a point where Thames Reach and Catch 22 are diverging in their delivery of this model in order to provide the best solutions they can for their clients within the broader hypothesis of the Peer Landlord project.
The project is testing a model of shared housing intended for individuals more advanced on their own personal journeys; those who do not need traditional supported housing; who are new to homelessness and need a helping hand not a supported environment; or individuals whose progress may be stifled by larger hostel accommodation or traditional homelessness ‘pathways’. Many who find themselves in such situations have their options heavily restricted as immediate access to the mainstream private rented sector may be prohibitive financially and practically, or indeed inappropriate for their circumstances. We want to cultivate safe environments that help individuals to engage with education and employment and lead stable lives, without the large costs and potential for ‘institutionalisation’ that traditional ‘hands on’ supported housing presents. In doing so, we hope to demonstrate the merits of shared accommodation as a positive solution, where it has in the past been viewed as a less than ideal alternative to supported accommodation. Indeed, it is an increasingly necessary option; we are continuing to find that a sustainable form of what experts at the University of York describe as mediated shared housing is very much needed in the current housing market.
In the second phase of this innovative project, with Catch 22 and Thames Reach adjusting the way the model is being delivered based on previous learning, we at Commonweal are looking to refocus on how we answer the questions “What does success look like?” and “Can we use this model successfully again?”. The initial “is there any merit in this idea” question has been answered – and there certainly is. Both Catch 22 and Thames Reach are now including such shared housing models in their future plans. Now we want to show the positive impacts this model can have for those involved, whilst aiming to deliver relative financial sustainability. We want to use this learning to establish what has and hasn’t worked for Catch 22 and Thames Reach, and determine if, and to what extent, the model could be replicated elsewhere in London and the rest of the country. Extracting coherent and applicable learning from our projects is at the heart of what Commonweal does, and we are now very much in the ‘do or die’ phase for the project. With a clearer idea of what we want from Peer Landlord over the coming months and years, we’re ready to move forward.
Whatever the result of the pilot, its vital that the learning here provides a catalyst to tackling an injustice that isn’t going away, pushing solutions that can help people who are striving to move on with their lives.
Mathew Wale is Business Development Manager for Peer Landlord at Commonweal Housing