What we learned at our webinar on “Creative ways to address housing exclusion”

Author(s): Radhika Bynon, Monica Nagore and Shannon Downey, The Young Foundation. Freek Spinnewijn, FEANTSA

The Housing Solutions Platform is a collaboration between FEANTSA, Friends of Europe, the Fondation Abbé Pierre and Housing Europe. The platform enables these four leading organisations share expertise to identify and promote innovative solutions for affordable housing in Europe, showcasing ambitious initiatives that have been tested in different European countries.

Reimagining Rent is the UK’s first innovation programme supporting new solutions in the private rented sector. The Young Foundation have identified a number of ground-breaking innovations addressing specific aspects of the challenge, for example, how can renting be made safer and fairer for both tenants and landlords; how can families at risk of eviction be supported to maintain their tenancy; ways to increase choice for those in need of wheelchair accessible properties.  Reimagining Rent supports these initiatives to grow their impact and become more sustainable.  Through a programme of workshops, consultancy and access to experts, it helps participating teams strengthen their business model, demonstrate their social impact and grow their potential to scale.

The webinar focused on different ways to address housing exclusion and stories of creative methods that tackle the issue of affordable housing. In the context of housing being increasingly perceived and used as an asset and a financial product, the webinar explored approaches that can transform housing into a guaranteed right.  The combination of scarce availability of affordable housing and increasing inequality are causing huge challenges for many people across Europe. The initiatives presented showed the importance of community-led initiatives to maximise impact and examples of the use of networks and collaborations as a route for scaling.

There was also broad consensus that solutions to housing exclusion need to be accompanied by market interventions. The housing markets in many European states exclude large sections of the population, particularly the most vulnerable. Many countries are dismantling and/or reducing their existing affordable housing provision while lacking the resources (and often political will) to develop new, alternative ways of meeting the current level of need, or to put access to affordable housing at the top of the priority list.

The discussion from participants highlighted different creative approaches to tackle housing exclusion, how effective the methods they use are and what are the gaps and areas in addressing housing exclusion that need tackled.

A number of key issues for tackling housing exclusion were identified:

  1. The importance of collaboration. As with most social innovation processes, collaboration between different stakeholders enriches the creation of new solutions and can facilitate change at a more systemic level – through the bringing together of different perspectives, skills and resources. Collaborations between key actors, bringing together public, private and social sectors – and bringing in end users from an early stage to design solutions should be the standard, not the exception.
  2. The need to support creativity and experimentation in housing solutions. Despite the fragmentation and complexity of the private rented sector, the Re-imagining Rent programme shows that there’s a significant potential for new ideas to tackle specific aspects of the affordable housing challenge. What is needed is both an environment in which creativity is unlocked and key actors work together to co-create solutions, and the subsequent support for these ideas to flourish, be tested and implemented, and grown and scaled if effective.
  3. The socialisation of private rent. Many tenants on low incomes, or those with poor credit scores or are in receipt of housing benefit, struggle to find a landlord who will rent to them.  Intermediary organisations can play a crucial role in facilitating better relationships between landlords and vulnerable tenants or by acting as a guarantor or providing landlords some sort of incentive.

The webinar was also an opportunity to share our social learning activities and upcoming events within and across the wider Social Innovation Community. With these activities we promote learning and reflective practice as part of a new social innovation culture.  Take a look at the website to find out more.

Originally published: 05 Sep 2018, on www.siceurope.eu

The SIC project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693883