Over the next few years, the ‘Housing First’ strategy for tackling homelessness is going to be rolled out in a big way, across the UK. Today Amy looks at what the Housing First model is, what it means in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and explains what property investors need to know if they are looking to get involved.
What Is Housing First?
Housing First is a homelessness prevention and response strategy which originated in Canada back in the 1980s.
When we consider what ‘Housing First’ actually means in practice, it’s actually a really simple strategy – almost common sense.
Housing First turns the traditional response of how we would usually approach homelessness in the UK, on its head.
So, a traditional approach to homelessness would see people sent to go and spend periods of time in hostels or other types of temporary accommodation. There would be an expectation that under these conditions people would become clean of alcohol or drugs and ultimately be able to secure a permanent residence.
With the Housing First model, the provision of housing for a homeless people is seen as a priority, rather than as something the person in question has to work towards. Because traditionally, this is how the issue of stable tenancy was viewed; as an ultimate goal that has to be achieved, rather than simply provided.
Housing First Application In The UK
When we are looking at how the Housing First model can be applied in the UK, one of the biggest challenges we are facing is the lack of access that we have to houses and more specifically to affordable housing for homeless communities.
Although there are some who claim that Housing First does not work it is still widely cited as the most effective method to ending homelessness in the developed nations. As such, we can expect that it will be coming to the UK with some force over the next couple of years.
How Should Landlords and Investors Prepare?
If you are a smart investor in property, you should already be able to anticipate what is coming. The inevitable roll-out of the Housing First strategy is going to create a huge need for housing.
Housing First will require a greater stock of shared housing with rooms for single people.
My advice is that this is something you can start looking into now. If you can prepare yourself to start developing properties – Housing First focussed projects – which could meet the needs of those who can’t access traditional housing options then you will be very well placed when the changes come in.
Support for Landlords
Housing First is a strategy focussed on working with people going through chronic homelessness. These members of our community can be very vulnerable and have arduous needs. As such, every person who has so far gone through a Housing First pilot scheme has been given a really robust package of support to assist them in their tenancy.
As a landlord or investor, involved in a homelessness strategy, this support is for you as well as for the tenant.
Having that support really helps to mitigate your risk and is there for your reassurance and guidance as you operate in this kind of marketplace.
You will be able to work alongside specialists; experts who are very competent at working with vulnerable tenants who will be helping the, to meet the needs of their tenancy. It is through having such a support network that everyone can work together to help the tenant rehabilitate the whole way through.
How Should A Property Investor Take Action?
If you are interested in operating a Housing First project – which means opening your property to those who might be disadvantaged, vulnerable, experiencing social needs, and homeless – what should you do to take action?
The main thing would be to make contact with your local authority and see what the demand is like for such housing in your local area. You need to find out if there is already a Housing First project that is being set up which will require a regular supply of housing stock.
You may be able to work with a housing association that will lease stick from you on a long-term basis.
If you can start to integrate with different partners who are already working with homelessness and offer your support and services then you’ll be able to make a big impact when Housing First gets rolled out across the UK over the next few years.
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