£9m WMCA investment will provide a safe haven for families at risk of homelessness

Tamworth-based social enterprise Cornerstone receives investment that will provide a place to call home for families at risk of homelessness.

Hundreds more families and individuals at risk of homelessness are to get a safe and comfortable place to call home thanks to a £9 million investment by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The funding will enable Tamworth-based social enterprise Cornerstone to nearly double the number of properties it owns and uses to help families and others in desperate need of accommodation.

Cornerstone currently operates 224 properties and since starting in 2018 it has housed more than 500 families and individuals including homeless veterans, victims of domestic violence, families with disabled children and those brought to the UK under the Afghanistan Resettlement Scheme.

It works closely with the region’s councils to provide a more stable, cost-effective alternative for those who would otherwise be placed in emergency accommodation in nearby hotels.

This is not only helping councils to provide a roof over the heads of some of the region’s most vulnerable but also to reduce pressure on their housing waiting lists by providing a wider choice of emergency or temporary accommodation.

Now, thanks to the WMCA’s investment, Cornerstone will be able to acquire a further 55 properties. This will include the purchase of houses and apartments up for sale on the regional housing market or the purchase of properties that are already leased by Cornerstone.

The properties will then be refurbished to a high standard, futureproofing them so they meet the new energy efficiency legislation that all rented accommodation will have to comply with by 2025.

The investment is just the latest from the WMCA's nationally acclaimed devolved housing and regeneration programme which, in partnership with industry, is transforming hundreds of acres of former industrial land, often referred to as brownfield, for new homes, jobs and commercial spaces, helping to drive the region’s economic recovery in the process.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “If we are serious about levelling up society, then guaranteeing a safe home for everyone is the only place to start.

“Homelessness scars our society but every person we prevent from ending up on the street is another step closer to the goal of a fairer society with opportunities for all – the true definition of levelling up.

“This WMCA funding for Cornerstone demonstrates our commitment to tackling homelessness by ensuring no one, especially our most vulnerable citizens, are left behind.

“The work that Cornerstone does is incredibly important – not just for those people who are, or at risk of becoming homeless but also for our local councils by providing them with a high quality but cheaper alternative to using local hotels.”

Cornerstone was set up by Dean Starr and Gavin Mullaley who both had a strong desire to build a socially responsible business. They started by supporting the Salvation Army in Coventry with an initial 78 family homes for temporary accommodation but since then Cornerstone’s reputation and scale of operation has grown significantly.

It now plays a key strategic role in supporting the region through partnerships with Birmingham City Council, Coventry Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Council, North Warwickshire Council and other councils alongside housing charities St Basils, Valley House, Spring Housing Association and others.

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Dean said: “We’re really pleased to have secured the backing of the WMCA to assist us in continuing our mission to bring more affordable and suitable accommodation to homeless residents across the West Midlands and Warwickshire.

“We know first-hand the challenges that lie ahead for many families in the region, but by directly partnering with local councils we’re delighted, as a homegrown West Midlands business, to be able to play our part in deploying investment into local properties and supporting families.

“Cornerstone will be working hard to continue delivering high impact housing solutions against a backdrop of challenging economic times ahead. A special thank you must go to the property team at Frontier Development Capital for their foresight and vision in understanding the impact we can have together.”

“The vast majority of that money has been invested in the transformation of derelict industrial land for new housing and commercial spaces. This has provided good quality, affordable homes for local people and modern workspaces for businesses to grow and prosper. This brownfield first approach is also helping to relieve pressure to build in the green belt.

“But as this latest investment shows, we can also use that money in other ways that provide affordable, energy efficient housing for people and in this case those most in need of it.

“I’m particularly pleased that Cornerstone chooses to support homeless veterans. This builds on support councils offer via the Armed Forces Covenant.”

Access to the WMCA funding was provided by the Property Team at Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC).

FDC works closely with property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA's Collective Investment Fund (CIF) and Revolving Investment Fund (RIF).

Gerald Gannaway, FDC’s Investment Director – Property, said: “We are delighted to establish a relationship with Cornerstone. The need for such housing is increasing and Cornerstone are a proven successful operator with a strong track record of meeting this key regional need. Despite challenging times, FDC continue to be able to arrange flexible funding packages for both residential and commercial transactions providing strong economic and social returns for our region.”

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