Wheelchair users have few options and this is a social problem that no one is looking into.
Meet Eleanor Bowden, CEO of Community Sponsors Homes (CSH), one of the seven ventures on the first cohort of our Reimagining Rent programme which is supporting these innovations working to make the private rented sector work better for vulnerable people. We talk with Eleanor about how she came to set up CSH and how the Reimagining Rent programme is helping them to achieve their aim to provide wheelchair accessible homes for private rent.
What inspired you to set up Community Sponsors Homes?
Initially, we wanted to help generation rent get on the property ladder, but we soon realized that generation rent is not a homogeneous group. Wheelchair users, for example, are currently underserved by the UK housing market. They have few options and this is a social problem that no one is looking into.
Tell us a little bit about your background….What were you doing before and what made you take the leap to setting up?
I have over 10 years’ experience in responsible business and social impact start-ups. Before starting CSH I was working on a different housing start-up for a couple of years.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you personally, and for the organisation, so far?
It’s been getting the operational funding. This is really difficult to get when you are a social business. Some of the easier conversations we’ve had have been with social impact investors wanting to invest in the properties themselves.
After applying to a number of trusts and foundations, we’ve been able to secure two financial grants and our plan for going forward is to ask them to fund a specific area of the business.
Why did you decide to apply to the Reimagining Rent programme?
It was mainly about accessing a network of people who are grappling with, big and difficult questions in the private rented sector. Through being a part of a peer network of changemakers we’ve been having some really interesting conversations and learnt a lot already and we’re only three weeks into the programme!
But we were surprised by the extent to which the tools and models taught on the programme would help CSH develop our strategic thinking further. For example, we’d already written our Theory of Change and Social Business Model Canvas with the help of our advisors six-months ago but revisiting them now has been more important for our development than we could have imagined.
What are your plans for the future with your Community Sponsors Homes?
Closing our cornerstone investment and operating deals with strategic partners.
If you tell a potential applicant to the Reimagining Rent one benefit of being on the programme, what would you say?
I can’t think why you wouldn’t want to apply to be honest. It is already proving invaluable for us.
I’ve been really impressed with how well pitched the delivery of the sessions have been. They are just at the right level. They’ve been interesting and useful as well as appropriately challenging.
What advice would you give to anyone else innovating in the PRS?
Connect with other experts in the sector and connect with others wanting to make change.