The Covid crisis has brought into focus the scale of the social challenges within Irish society, but also across the globe. There is no escaping that reality, but we can face it head on.
In addition to the restrictions on daily life, rising unemployment and economic uncertainty – driven by the Covid unknown of when it will end – are all adding to a sense of mental anguish.
The situation has been particular acute for the large number of people living in temporary emergency accommodation, many in cramped hotel rooms. It is hard on people’s mental health in normal times; the Covid crisis has magnified the sense of hopelessness.
We established Irish Homes with a clear social purpose: to provide a solution to the serious shortfall in the supply of social housing properties, in conjunction with the Irish Government’s ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ initiative.
Pre-Covid we understood the extent of the housing crisis on the ground; the long social housing lists – a large percentage of people on there for years – and record homelessness. Even so, the last six months have shown us just how hard it is for people.
In recent years, the idea of stakeholder capitalism has gathered momentum, whereby companies would operate in a more stakeholder friendly way. It is seen as a shift from the traditional maximise shareholder value model.
What we find interesting about the social housing business model is that its very existence is dependent on the collaboration of key stakeholders. For it to work, there has to be an alignment of objectives among stakeholders – government & local authorities, investors, the housing provider, and the renter – to meet social housing needs in a financial sustainable way.
The councils we work with are intent on meeting social housing demand, but the lack of resources is the issue. Under the long lease option, they can partner with investors who value the social impact of housing and the opportunity for secure long-term yields in a negative interest
Public Private Partnership
The long lease option for social housing in Ireland represents a clear opportunity to foster greater public partnership. If harnessed in the right way, it has the potential to be a game changer in tackling the social housing crisis. It could also be a model for other countries to follow.
Public private collaboration will be even more imperative over the coming years as countries emerge from the Covid crisis. Governments, burdened with higher debts, will need to find creative ways to rebuild their respective economies. Finding the right private partners with the right intentions – sustainable economic development – will be the key.
Like all businesses we have to adapt to the current environment, but the Covid crisis has reinvigorated our sense of purpose as a business and the difference we want to make in the world.
This year we have provided 71 homes to local authorities and we have directly seen what it has meant for the families who we have helped. Next year we plan to make an even bigger impact.
For more information on what Irish Homes are doing to tackle the social housing challenge visit their website: www.IrishHomes.ie