The Affordable Housing Crisis – what businesses can do to support their employees and wider society

Affordable housing is not a subject dominating the corporate social responsibility arena, however for London-based businesses the housing crisis could in fact be the most pressing issue affecting your employees, customers and communities this year. The pricing out of young talent and London workers who keep the City moving, poses a real threat.

Heart of the City hosted an event on 9 October bringing together leaders from Fifty Thousand Homes Campaign, Dolphin Living and the Nationwide Foundation to discuss the affordable housing crisis, its impact on London’s workforce and some practical ways in which businesses can support employees and local communities.

Naomi Smith, Executive Director of the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign shared shocking statistics on just how serious the current housing shortage is across London – approximately 50,000 new homes are needed every year in London to meet demand over the next 20 years. Despite this, 1 in 3 homes are lost after either during planning or completion.

Leigh Pearce, Chief Executive from Nationwide Foundation highlighted the negative impact the housing crisis poses to employee wellbeing and productivity levels. Warning that rising costs in the rental market can push employees one step closer to being at risk of homelessness.

Why does it matter?

Although you may not be aware of it, the changes are that the affordable housing crisis is already affecting your business, through:

-Loss of customers – as people spend a higher proportion of their income on rent, their disposable income reduces

-Recruitment and diversity – high rental costs can put off young talent from re-locating to London especially in high demand industries such as tech

-Loss of staff – high travel costs and housing costs can impact the wellbeing of your existing staff and your staff retention rates.

So what role can business play in supporting employees and the community during the housing crisis?

Fifty Thousand Homes told us that businesses – large and small –  have a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership on this issue by alleviating the housing costs for their employees and supporting the wider community. Launched in 2015, the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign aims to keep housing at the top of the political agenda and galvanise the support of businesses across London to take meaningful action.

Backed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Fifty Thousand Homes have created a pledge to encourage businesses to assess staff needs and commit to supporting those struggling with high housing costs and precarious accommodation. They aim to get 100 businesses who recognise the impact of the capital’s housing crisis signed up by the end of 2017. To pledge your support visit here

What does the pledge mean and how can I get involved?

You don’t have to be a large employer to sign the housing pledge, but you do need to believe you can make a positive change within six months of signing up. Heart of the City shares some of the practical ways employers can pledge to help employees / assist in the local community:

-Financial support such as providing season ticket loans that help spread the cost of travel across the year

-Flexible working initiatives that provide employees with opportunity to work from home or take time to view properties during the working day, when it’s safe and light

-Tenancy deposit schemes to help employees secure properties with an advance in salary to cover the high deposits required for rental properties

-Commit to regularly surveying staff to ensure you are aware of and can respond to employees’ housing needs

-Donate your time to support local housing organisations/ charities who can signpost and provide free advice to employees and local communities on housing related topics

Case study- Dolphin Living

We heard from Dolphin Living, a small housing organisation who signed the Fifty Thousand Homes pledge last summer. Octavia Williams, Head of Corporate Services, started by surveying the team and quickly discovered there was considerable disparity between the employees’ housing situations. In this small business Octavia was quickly able to secure senior leadership and gain sign-off to offer employees access to a tenancy deposit scheme. Dolphin Living employees are now eligible to apply for an advance on salary (reviewed on a case by case basis) to cover the cost of deposit schemes, on the basis that evidence is submitted the deposit has been held by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

Our members can access the slides from the presentation here.

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