Based in Falkirk, HomePointr is a social enterprise, established to improve access to suitable housing options by connecting referral agencies with housing providers throughout Scotland.
Having worked with various housing providers and referral agencies over a 12 year period, we experienced first-hand some of the frustrations and inefficiencies they dealt with when searching for suitable housing options for homeless and vulnerable people. Some agencies just weren’t aware of the housing options available for people using their services, and were wasting valuable time making numerous calls to multiple housing providers to find properties. Social landlords were also suffering, with many experiencing low-demand for their housing, resulting in rental loss and failed tenancies.
To address this, our idea was to create an online platform to streamline the renting process for both applicants and housing providers.
The raft of changes to the benefits and tax credit system has continued to impact the demand for social housing, with many landlords experiencing high tenancy turnover and low demand for some of their properties. In fact, according to the Scottish Housing Regulator, the rent lost through properties being empty in 2016/2017 was £90 million.
Referral agencies such as the NHS, prison service and project workers are always looking for accommodation for people using their service, but there are often times when they are simply not aware of the housing opportunities available.
In 2016, the BBC reported that bed blocking costs the NHS an estimated £900 million per year
Evidence suggests that social housing lettings systems - such as Choice Based Lettings, needs-based systems and common housing registers - are ineffective for low demand, meaning social housing lettings are often being advertised through web-based platforms such as Rightmove and Citylets.
As an online platform, HomePointr will save referral agencies time and resources by quickly finding suitable housing options for their service users. At the same time, it will help to support the housing provision economy by improving access and occupancy rates for providers. The platform will list vacancies meaning referral agencies will immediately be able to see the housing options available and inquire on behalf of their service users.
After securing a number of organisations to participate, we launched a pilot phase of the project in February 2018. The funding from the ShareLab Fund will help us to recruit a part-time business development officer and software developer, who will further identify sales leads, pitch products to clients and maintain good working relationships with our partners.
We also hope to add additional features to our platform - including SMS messaging services and real-time text alerts about housing opportunities - and hope to take advantage of the growing presence of smartphone technology and geo-localisation.
HomePointr will receive £29,500 from the ShareLab Fund.