Real estate fund manager Patron Capital and several impact investment organisations are seeking to persuade institutional investors to help fund the creation of accommodation for vulnerable women in the UK.

Patron Capital, social-impact investment specialist Resonance and Big Society Capital (BSC) have launched the Women in Safe Homes (WISH) fund with an intitial investment of £15.5m (€16.8m) and a target size of £100m.

The fund, which has already secured investment from BSC, Patron Capital founder Keith Breslauer, MacArthur Foundation and Lostand Foundation, will address the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes for women who are experiencing homelessness, have been involved with the criminal justice system, are survivors of domestic abuse or have other complex needs.

WISH aims to provide about 650 affordable homes across the UK and will begin purchasing properties in January to lease to women’s sector organisations and homelessness charities, which will rent homes to women at risk of homelessness with secure tenancies.

Initial charity partners Preston Road Women’s Centre and Refuge will provide specialist and housing support to help women recover from abusive or difficult circumstances and Nacro will house women under its Bail, Accommodation and Support Service.

While the fund has already gained investment from impact investors and foundations, it is open to institutional and professional investors in the UK and internationally.

Patron Capital and Resonace said institutional investors would “not only be attracted by the potential of a financial return from rent and capital appreciation, but also the strong focus on achieving substantial positive social impact by supporting women in challenging circumstance”.

Earlier this year, IPE Real Assets reported on the growth in social-impact housing strategies in the UK and how these strategies could potentially meet both financial and impact objectives for pension funds.

While most funds are focused on traditional social and affordable housing, the WISH fund is unique in its focus. In 2018, BSC spent six months speaking to more than 60 women’s sector organisations to better understand the housing needs of vulnerable women, and then set about looking for partners to co-develop a housing fund to address the issue. 

“During this process, we heard too many stories about the unmet and often hidden housing needs of women – and from there we made a commitment to providing safe and affordable homes to enable these women to live better lives,” said Karen Ng, investment director at BSC.

“We are pleased to bring this vision to life, in partnership with Resonance and Patron, and our fellow pioneering investors.”

According to Women’s Aid, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and children, and 1.6m women in 2019 the experienced domestic abuse. The managers of WISH said COVID-19 had exacerbated the situation.

Patron Capital managing director Breslauer, who has put £1m of his money into the fund, said: “The case for impact investing has never been more relevant than it is right now, with the pandemic both exacerbating and shining a light on the societal issues that vehicles such as the WISH fund can look to address.

“Societal impact and the potential to change the world around us have always underpinned our work at Patron Capital and are key to my own personal philosophy on life.”

Kay Orlopp, Resonance’s property fund development manager and lead on the WISH fund, said: “Thousands of women in the UK are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness due to a chronic lack of suitable and affordable housing.

“This is particularly prevalent for women who have experienced domestic abuse and are unable to live their lives in safety or who are leaving prison with nowhere to go.

”The WISH fund, run as a joint venture between Resonance and Patron Capital, will provide a social impact investment housing solution to this gendered housing need, and, working alongside charity partners, will deliver safe and affordable homes for vulnerable women who need them most.”