Rachael Barber of Citi, Susan Aktemel of Homes for Good and the BBC's Justin Webb at the Awards Ceremony.
For many, the business of running lettings agencies conjures thoughts of unfettered capitalism gone wild. Excessive charges for credit checks, registration, contracts and renewals. And few alternative choices for customers trying to put a roof over their heads. But an entrepreneur with a social conscience has created a letting agency with a difference in Scotland. Homes for Good is the first letting agency in Scotland to be run as a social enterprise, and to proactively support people with limited housing choice to get quality homes in the private rented sector.
With housing options for thousands of people on low incomes severely limited, Susan Aktemel wondered why the private rental sector wasn’t addressing people’s housing needs – and how she could change this.
As the founder of a national charity, Impact Arts, Susan had already started to develop schemes to support vulnerable people to find long-term homes. She had created the Fab Pad programme, which supports vulnerable people in sustaining tenancies through interior design. So she set about building a social enterprise lettings agency, Homes for Good CIC. It’s the first lettings agency in Scotland to specialise in letting homes to people on low incomes, striving to understand and meet the needs of landlords and tenants.
Working with private landlords, this unique agency provides home for over 300 people across the West of Scotland and is growing steadily.
It helps more people manage and maintain successful tenancies by offering budgeting advice, financial planning and employability assistance and in this way helps to encourage more landlords to let properties to people on benefits and low incomes.
Susan is part of LaunchMe, Scotland's first accelerator programme for ambitious, early stage social enterprises, run by Firstport.
A key element of its growth involves its sister company Homes for Good Investments, a joint venture with Impact Ventures UK (IVUK), supported by responsible finance provider Charity Bank (a savings and loans bank with a “mission to use money for good.”)
Homes for Good Investments helps to scale the community interest company. It acquires run-down properties and transforms them into homes to be let by Homes for Good CIC. This will create a pipeline of 120 properties for rental through Homes for Good CIC – and should benefit 480 people in Scotland over the next eight years.
Now Susan’s efforts to scale Homes for Good have been recognised by the judges in the UK’s national awards for responsible finance providers and their clients, the 2016 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards – organised by the Citi Foundation in partnership with Responsible Finance. Named the “Social Microentrepreneur of the Year”, Susan was presented with the prize – and a cheque for £5000 for Homes for Good Scotland CIC – at the Award ceremony on 8th March in Manchester.
Judges praised Susan as an "outstanding social entrepreneur with a clear social mission – she has taken an entrepreneurial approach to addressing one of Scotland’s most pressing social issues.” And thanks to Homes for Good Investments, which couldn’t exist without the support of a responsible finance provider, Charity Bank, Susan’s mission is set to benefit even more families in need of a roof over their heads.
Susan Aktemel, Director, Homes for Good (Scotland) CIC commented:
The Homes for Good team is totally thrilled to win this prestigious award. We have a big job to do in changing standards and practice in the private rented sector, and to have recognition for our work from the responsible finance community is very special.
Peter Kelly, Business Development Director at Charity Bank, said:
Social entrepreneurs, like Susan, are playing an increasingly important role in shaping our communities’ social and economic development.
Providing loans to charities and social enterprises with a clear social purpose is exactly what Charity Bank was set up to do. We’re proud lenders to Homes for Good, which is now recognised in the industry as a model of best practice with plans to replicate it across the UK.