Today, in partnership with the Nationwide Foundation, we launch the first cohort of Reimagining Rent, the accelerator supporting ventures focused on vulnerable people in the private housing rental sector.
With housing taking centre stage in the Autumn Budget this year, there has been a lot of focus on the challenges of supply of affordable housing in the UK; with various responses to the government’s proposals.
But the private rental sector should not be forgotten amongst this, given that we’ve seen a 121% increase in private renting over the last few years; following a decline in the provision of social housing and home ownership.
There are some distinct challenges posed in the private rental sector in that it works incredibly well for some people, but there are huge variations in standards and quality of provision. 29% of private rented homes fail the ‘Decent Homes’ standard, with 16% posing a direct threat to health and safety. Those who are vulnerable or on low incomes are disproportionately affected by these problems. Not helped by the fact that private renters spend a significantly greater proportion of their income on housing relative to those with a mortgage or those in social housing.
Addressing these problems is a very real challenge. 89% of landlords within the private rental sector are individuals and only own one property, and so we see an incredibly fragmented market, consisting of people who are not professional landlords. Addressing issues of affordability and driving up standards is not straightforward and our mission is to support innovation, activity and entrepreneurship in this area through Reimagining Rent.
You can find out more about the first cohort here but they include initiatives like Homeless Rooms. Around 300 homeless people in Birmingham are sleeping rough tonight and 5000 to 20,000 more people are ‘sofa surfing’ with no place to call their own. Yet there hundreds of empty rooms in Birmingham owned by landlords that don’t demand deposits, fees or unaffordable rents. Homeless Rooms matches those underutilised beds for the night with people who need them. Another initiative, Community Sponsors Homes is developing a new Investment Fund to buy and adapt homes specifically for the nation’s 1.2 million wheelchair users who have been identified by the NHS but for whom there is a massive deficiency in wheelchair accessible homes.
These two examples, and more, are being supported through our first Reimagining Rent cohort. The next wave of support for those interested in getting on board, will be running for further cohorts in the summer of 2018 and the spring of 2019.
At the end of Reimagining Rent, we will have supported up to 30 ventures to tackle inequalities within the private rental sector, and we are hugely thankful to the Nationwide Foundation for supporting this much needed initiative.
But how much further could we go? I think there’s still huge scope to provide incentives for communities, property owners and entrepreneurs to increase the supply of good, new ideas to tackle housing related challenges. There are innovation opportunities out there, but less activity than we need to see and we shouldn’t underestimate some of the difficulties in getting solutions (whether community or venture led) off the ground.
Innovation in the private rental sector is also an area that would benefit hugely from greater collaboration across sectors. As the flow of ideas from initiatives like Reimagining Rent grows, a programme to foster collaboration between large corporates and businesses with an interest in ensuring their employees are safely and affordably housed could work very well. It’s a ripe space for corporate social venturing – delivering impact at a much larger scale with multiple benefits for businesses, communities and employees alike.
Watch this space for updates on how Reimagining Rent is progressing and get in touch if you’d like to know more.