Pioneering ‘gender lens’ property fund targets £100m raise
A £100m property fund, believed to be the world’s first with a specific gender focus, launched this week after two years in development.
The Women in Safe Homes (WISH) fund is a joint venture from UK impact investment firm Resonance and real estate manager Patron Capital, and was developed with expert organisations including Women’s Aid.
It was first announced a year ago, and aims to solve the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes for women who are experiencing homelessness, have been involved with the criminal justice system, are survivors of domestic abuse or have other complex needs.
The WISH fund plans to buy around 650 affordable homes across the UK and lease them to the women’s sector and homelessness charities which, in turn, will rent homes to women at risk of homelessness, with a secure tenancy. Initial charity partners are Preston Road Women’s Centre, Nacro and Refuge.
Social investment wholesaler Big Society Capital, which counts housing among its three priority areas, has committed £10m to the fund. Other first investors are the US-based John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation (£3.7m), Patron’s managing director Keith Breslauer (£1m) and US-based Lostand Foundation (£100,000), plus a high-net-worth private investor (£500,000).
The MacArthur Foundation investment is part of the Catalytic Capital Consortium, an initiative it created with the Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network to demonstrate the power of catalytic capital and to expand the reach of the impact investing field.
Debra Schwartz, managing director of impact investments at MacArthur Foundation, said the WISH fund was an “innovative model for meeting the critical housing needs” of women and children in vulnerable situations. “The fund clearly demonstrates the power of catalytic capital to help build a more just, equitable, and resilient world.”
The fund clearly demonstrates the power of catalytic capital to help build a more just, equitable, and resilient world
The fund managers expect to attract further interest from institutional, pension fund and professional investors in the UK and internationally seeking both financial return from rent and capital appreciation and social impact.
One of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children is domestic violence, with 1.6 million women in the UK experiencing domestic abuse in 2019, according to Women’s Aid. Covid-19 has worsened the situation for many women: in April, 78% of those experiencing abuse said the pandemic made it even harder for them to escape abuse.
Lisa Hilder, trustee and treasurer of Preston Road Women’s Centre, said the WISH fund would help organisations like hers to help vulnerable women to rebuild their lives.
“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 wraparound 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.”
The WISH fund will be the sixth homelessness property fund from Resonance, and follows last week's announcement of Resonance's National Homelessness Property Fund 2, also targeting a £100m raise.
Header image: Zero Tolerance project, created in partnership with Scottish Women’s Aid (© Laura Dodsworth)
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