The Church of England are among the latest investors to join a social-impact real estate fund focused on vulnerable women in the UK.

The £1.6m (€1.89m) commitment to the Women in Safe Homes fund is the first investment made through the Church of England’s new social-impact investment programme.

The fund, which was launched late last year and is managed by pan-European real estate fund manager Patron Capital and social-impact specialist Resonance, attracted £6m in total in a fourth close from the Church of England, Casey Family Programs, Snowball and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

More than £26m has now been raised for the fund, which is aiming to eventually reach between £100m and £200m, which would allow it to provide 650 homes across the UK for more than 6,000 women over its lifetime.

The fund in partnership with specialist organisations aims to provide safe, stable and affordable homes for vulnerable women and their children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Many of the women will have been victims of domestic abuse or exploitation, or are leaving prison.

It also aims to provide a “good risk-adjusted financial return from rent and capital appreciation”, while achieving substantial positive social impact by supporting women facing homelessness.

Keith Breslauer, managing director of Patron Capital, said: “The global pandemic exacerbated the women’s homelessness crisis, with 91% of people already experiencing domestic abuse saying that COVID-19 had negatively impacted them in at least one way.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill receiving Royal Assent earlier this year was a key moment in strengthening measures to tackle perpetrators; the Women in Safe Homes fund provides an important next step by helping survivors rebuild their lives after escaping abuse.

“The fund’s model is innovative in its focus and its ability to provide a financial return while improving society, and these additional investors will help us to provide homes and support at a time when they are critically needed.”

The Church of England’s social-impact investment programme was established earlier this year with £16m of grant funding from the Church Commissioners for England.

Vanessa Morphet, head of social impact investment at the Archbishops’ Council, said: “Women in Safe Homes is an innovative fund addressing a pressing societal problem of inadequate access to safe and stable accommodation for vulnerable women.

“People and organisations across the Church of England community already work to support vulnerable women and this investment is an excellent example of how the Church can use its social investment capital in further support of its mission.

“It is exciting to announce our first investment. There are a growing number of impact-focused fund managers tackling some really difficult social and environmental challenges in the UK and we look forward to putting more of our capital to work in this way.”

Louise Swinden, property fund development manager at Resonance, said: “The chronic lack of suitable and affordable housing specifically for women is leaving thousands at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

“Women who have experienced trauma, domestic abuse and violence are particularly at risk. However, with a shortfall in the number of refuge spaces available – and over 57% of refuge referrals declined – many women are either being placed in inappropriate accommodation, choosing to sleep rough or have no option but to remain with their abuser.

“So, we are delighted the Church of England has joined the efforts of the Women in Safe Homes fund, making its first social-impact investment into the fund.

“This investment will make a significant contribution to the impact the fund is making, providing safe, decent, and affordable homes for women at risk of homelessness. It will also enable more women to access specialist support services, to be empowered and to live their lives how they choose.”