Amy Varle: Back in 2012, I launched People's Property Shop, a mission-led enterprise that provides quality rental homes to those who are homeless or disadvantaged. I had previously worked as a local government employee, and I could see that homelessness was increasing rapidly. There simply wasn't the required level of housing stock within the local authorities to respond to the elevated demand.
I decided to use my knowledge and skills to open up an organization that would use business strategies to go into the private sector and look for solutions that were enterprising and innovative. Everything undertaken throughout journey would be mission-led. Aim to create social value and ultimately create social good.
So I set People's Property Shop up with the aim of getting people into property. Also seeing what were the needs that they encountered along the way and what were the challenges. What were the difficulties experienced. Not just by tenants who were poverty-stricken, but by the property owners and agents and investors who were ultimately taking on the risk and encountering all of these issues for themselves.
So when I got some traction with People's Property Shop and I started going out to networking events in order to integrate into the private rented sector a little bit. I started to discover that there was lots of empty student property available. And this was because we'd had a bit of an influx in Manchester of HMO landlords. So that's multi-let landlords, landlords who want to let to a group of people who and perhaps don't know each other, or maybe they do, but it's not letting traditionally to a whole family.
In Manchester, we've had a huge increase of HMO landlords. They've chased financial returns that can be involved with letting to multiple tenants. As opposed to one household.
So in Manchester, with this influx of HMO landlords, we've unfortunately not had to say elevated influx of students, and this has led to there's a huge amount of vacant stock around in Manchester, and a lot of other university towns as well.
I discovered this as I was networking on the Manchester property scene, and I was really really looking to meet a landlord who was holding a portfolio of stock within the student marketplace. He was anticipating that some of this stock was gonna be vacant as the student year approached. So we developed a really really great relationship, and we started to work together over the next few years.
What we did was taking some of my knowledge and experience from the public sector. I'd worked as a local government employee so we created some strategies and systems to reduce the risk of the investor. So he could let to a more vulnerable tenant group within the private marketplace.