We recently invited our supported housing partner Golden Lane Housing to take part in an investor webinar. With over £3 million worth of property in the pipeline with Golden Lane Housing in the next few months, participants got the chance to find out more about this registered provider, investing in supporting housing, current challenges the sector is facing and what impact these investments have in helping individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism.
Here’s a snapshot of the questions Golden Lane Housing were asked and responses from Abdul Latif, Director of Development, and Felicity Ford, Senior Development Officer:
Can you tell us a little bit more about Golden Lane Housing. Who are you as an organisation?
Abdul: “Just to give you a bit of background, we were founded 25 years ago by the Royal MENCAP Society to find housing solutions for people with learning disabilities who are disadvantaged in terms of housing options in the market, and to date, we remain a very specialised housing provider for those with learning disabilities.
In 2015, we became a registered provider and social landlord. So we’re a specialist housing provider in this niche market, working within a regulatory framework. We’re relatively small compared to some housing providers, but we’re one of the leading providers for people with learning disabilities.”
How do the people you help come to hear about you? Who do you work with to provide supported accommodation for them?
Abdul: “In terms of our role, we don’t provide the support function. That’s up to the local authority to commission, so the support provider is appointed by them. Most of our referrals come from local authority Adult Social Care or from the support providers directly. Support for learning disability is different to other types of support in that the support provision is not normally tendered out. The local authority will already be working within a framework of approved support providers. So the care providers will come to us to source the housing, or the local authority will approach us directly for housing and then bring in the care provider at a later stage.”
When you say ‘support provider’ could you expand on what that means?
Abdul: “Just by way of background, local authorities have a statutory responsibility to support people with a learning disability. Where individual needs are severe, this support might be in hospital or a care home, but the vast majority of care provision is now met through supported housing. It’s up to the local authority to decide what options to take. Once they’ve decided a community based, or supported housing setting, is appropriate, they look to appoint a support provider. They could be from the charitable sector – like MENCAP or United Response – but over the last 20 years we’ve seen a lot of private sector organisations come in, providing support as well, so the people we work with could range from charities to equity backed organisations.
They all have the responsibility to provide the specific support needs identified for the individual, to look after their welfare, their social needs. Most of the people we look after would need 24 hour support, so a 4 bedroom property will be needed for 3 people with either support awake at night or a sleep in care provider who can wake up if any of the residents have any needs.
It’s this statutory duty that I think makes our business more viable than others, where there’s no statutory obligation.”
Can you talk us through how it works for an individual? How does the support package get put in place?
Abdul: “The complex nature of learning disabilities means that everyone’s needs are going to be different, so they’re all individually assessed. The local authority will then look at the support scheme they’re entering and the proportion of hours and type of support needed. They’ll then commission that and come to us for the property side, which will be more about the physical requirements. Some might have mobility issues that require a bungalow, or there might be a specific room size required. Every property specification will be different.”
How does the financing of a package like that work?
Abdul: “The care package is funded by Adult Social Care, so that doesn’t impact us. The housing side of it is different, that comes from Housing Benefit. In social housing there are generally 2 rules that apply. One is the local housing rate applied to those with no care needs or affordable housing and is fixed at 80% of market rent. Because we provide specialist supported housing, that rule doesn’t apply to us, although we do benchmark against social housing rates in terms of what we charge.
If you look at where these people are coming from – from hospitals and residential care homes – it’s generally quite costly, so we’re exempt from this rule and our rents are based on a cost and returns basis. That is, we look at the cost of the property and any adaptations or improvements we need to make for fire and safety, for example, and we base the rent on that. And that’s the arrangement we have with Assetz Exchange. The housing benefit is paid directly to us from the Housing Benefit department, so the care providers don’t have anything to do with it, although we do have to get the rent approved by Housing Benefit and the Social Care Commissioners at the onset of setting up a scheme, to make sure they’re happy with it.”
Can you talk a bit about the lease length? We’d assume that as long as people need the property, the lease would be in place. Is that correct?
Abdul: “That’s correct. The reason we do go for shorter lease length though is because we don’t have control over the referral process from the local authority, so we need to ensure that we have some flexibility if that service is decommissioned in 3 to 5 years’ time. That is, we’d need to be able to end it as we don’t make any return on the leases.
However, people with learning disabilities are likely to live in these properties a lot longer than that as they have the disabilities for the rest of their lives. Equally, where we see people moving beyond the supported home, as they grow older and move possibly into a care home setting or hospital, we need to make sure there are referrals to fill those spaces.
Having leases longer than this is a major concern for the housing regulator and you’ll see some housing providers in the market have become non-compliant because of this or are losing their licence because they’re going into longer leases where the ability to stick to those leases is beyond their control. That’s why it’s a regulatory requirement.
Our renewal rate for leases is around the late 80s and early 90s, percentage wise, for the main reason that people who we have provided housing for 15 or 20 years ago still need that accommodation and we undertake adaptations to ensure they can continue to live in their accommodation.
We’ve just had our 4 year in depth review by the Regulator and maintained our V1 and G1 status, which is the highest rating, because of this approach to lease length.
Although we can’t commit to a lease longer than 5 or 6 years for regulatory reasons, it’s likely these leases will be renewed for far longer, for 15 or 20 years.”
Can you tell us more about the type of individuals that Assetz Exchange investors have been able to help through their investments in property leased to Golden Lane Housing?
Felicity: “Something that’s really key to our tenants is security of tenure and the ability to provide them with a home for life. The uncertainty of the private rental sector has led to a high churn in eviction notices. One of the fantastic things about Assetz Exchange has been the longer term security of tenure we’ve been able to offer with these arrangements.
To give an example, a recent property funded by investors – Hazel Road – we had rented for 4 years when the landlord decided to sell, risking the occupants becoming homeless or possibly having to be split up to be allocated local authority void bed spaces. So the arrangement we have with Assetz Exchange has been wonderful in that we’ve been able to retain the accommodation for them.
Again, two previous properties, our first property with Assetz Exchange – Abingdon Way in Nuneaton – and Durris Close in Coalville, the individuals had been living in their accommodation for 10 years when the landlords served notice and we were able to secure their tenure through our work with Assetz Exchange.
We’ve also recently been able to help an elite gymnast who requires specialist supported housing including assistive technology and she also has a guide dog. She was living with her parents and they didn’t believe that she’d be able to make the next step into supported housing so they’re delighted and it’s been absolutely fantastic for her.
We’ve also recently housed 2 sisters who were living with their father where he couldn’t continue to support them any longer and we were really concerned that they were going to be split up. However, they’ve recently moved into a new property leased with Assetz Exchange and the results have been great. The father is over the moon and it has just made such a difference to the tenants.”
If this blog has sparked your interest in this investment area or raised any further questions for you, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to receive regular updates of our social housing investments.
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