This guest blog post was authored by Anne-Helene Sinha and Nayantara Nath of the Venturesome team at Charities Aid Foundation.
Earlier this month, Charities Aid Foundation’s social investment arm, Venturesome, celebrated a special milestone – our 20th anniversary. Launched in 2002 as one of the first social investment funds in the UK, Venturesome has made over 700 social investments totalling more than £61m to date. Today, we continue to be one of the most active social investors in the ecosystem. The occasion has given us an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, share our learnings along the way, and a chance to renew our commitment to support impactful organisations.
We published our 20 Years of Impact Report to celebrate the stories of those who have let us be a part of their growth, and recognise the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Our commitment to supporting the community led housing (CLH) sector has been a key part of our journey. In 2008, with the support of the Community Land Trust Network (CLTN), we set up our first Community Land Trust Fund, to support the sector at a time when there were only 16 live Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Over the course of the last 14 years, as the CLT movement has grown significantly, Venturesome has made over 60 CLH investments with over £6m of capital committed. This has resulted in the creation of 200+ new affordable homes, with another 500 homes in the pipeline.
We continue to be inspired by the CLH sector. The drive, passion, and resilience shown by communities coming together to build better homes for their families have been humbling to witness. CLH groups are rarely deterred from completing their plans. This was confirmed by research we commissioned in 2019 which found that all the projects we supported for development finance were successfully finished, without any loans being written-off.
Through the years, we have worked with like-minded funders to build a supportive environment for CLH groups. We have helped to create a clearer pathway for referrals, as well as build ‘co-investment’ packages that bring together other investors, funders, grant providers, and senior lenders (such as banks and building societies). One of the best examples of this collaborative approach is our blended finance offer within the CLH fund. Through our strategic partnership with Power to Change and our philanthropic funders, we are able to offer part loan- part grant for CLH groups at the pre-development stage. This investment offer has been designed to ‘fill the gap’ in the market to enable CLH groups to get to a stage where they can access mainstream finance from banks, building societies, a partner registered provider or community share finance. Our loans are also unsecured, to allow flexibility to CLH groups so they can offer security to senior lenders when they reach the development stage.
The current financial and economic landscape poses challenges and puts additional pressure on CLH groups looking to deliver schemes. Groups are needing to adapt their plans and explore new routes to tackle rising construction costs and borrowing costs. For some this involves exploring more traditional building routes (such as Design & Build), launching community share offers, and partnering with RPs who can support with interest rate rises. We remain committed to providing the following:
- Blended Finance Offering with part-loan, part-grant (open for applications till end of December 2023)
- Fixed Interest Rate Loans (available till end of December 2024)
- Flexible terms for our clients to suit their needs
- Our ‘no hidden costs’ philosophy and minimal fees
- Support to organisations over the lifetime of the investment through a dedicated investment officer
Looking to the future, we will continue to support the advocacy efforts of CLTN on behalf of CLH groups. We have previously supported a government Community Housing Fund to target funding on housebuilding, and there are potential opportunities in the Community Wealth Fund, where dormant assets could be used to fund social infrastructure projects. Ensuring investment, including philanthropic capital, reaches the community organisations at their initial set up stages could be central to ensuring their viability. This would also help to bring confidence to social investors and mainstream banks to invest in the later stages of the projects.
For more information about funding available at every stage of the community led housing journey, visit the Community Led Homes funding page.