Friday, 4 January 2019
My first year at Reside Housing is now over and what a year it’s been with a fantastic team who are passionate about making a difference to the people we support.
This is the first in a series of blogs I will be writing as I reflect on the learning, challenges and joys my first year has brought, both as a new CEO and as someone relatively new to this sector. This month I reflect on the finances that make our corner of the world turn.
I joined Reside Housing from the support sector, where I spent many years working hard to keep increasingly underfunded support services at a level of quality that allowed me to sleep at night. So I was certainly not a stranger to supported housing, or even Registered Providers, but I was new to working purely in housing. Reside is a specialist provider of supported housing, partnering with many care and support organisations, but we don’t provide the support ourselves.
My background is in health and social care and my roots are in public health, so I am absolutely committed to good quality housing and believe it is an essential part of enabling community-based care that allows people to live with independence close to their home.
While working in social care, I spent my time trying to make the money we had go further. I was glad for every year that passed when we didn’t end with a red number. This year, when I began working in the world of housing, within supported housing, I found different financial forces to be at work. My popularity reached new heights as financial investors were suddenly eager to talk to me about how they could finance supported housing. Naturally investors like to create profit, but it is clear that the intention to generate significant profit for themselves potentially also created significant risk for Reside.
Now, of course, the supported housing sector needs capital, and no capital comes without a price. But if the return is so good, where is the public investment? I am bemused by how one part of the solution could be pursuing above-market profit while another, social care, is scraping to stay in the black.
In August, the government published their response to the consultation on the funding model for supported housing. It confirmed that housing costs will continue to be paid through the benefit system and that there would be no further consultation on long-term supported housing, as previously expected. This is a very good thing for the stability of the sector.
The government is, however, carrying out a review of housing-related support to better understand how housing and support currently fit together. The National Housing Federation is working with the government and the sector to achieve increased transparency and oversight of housing costs in supported housing, and this is critical.
It is true that supported housing does often cost more to set up than general needs housing. It doesn’t easily lend itself to larger scale development and is, by nature, bespoke and often highly adapted.
As a charitable, non-profit organisation, Reside must access capital to meet the need for more quality housing for those with support needs. Otherwise, we can’t fulfil our remit. So: understanding the true cost of investment is important, transparency is important and also important is remembering that good, supported housing provides people with more rights, more social integration and a higher quality of life than was offered by the institutions of our past. Also, is significantly more cost effective.
These are the financial conversations we must continue to have.