The model of Social Rental Enterprise is based on the already existing Social Rental Agencies (SRAs), which are non-profit housing institutions addressing the housing problems of poor and vulnerable people with specific barriers to accessing housing, operating in several EU countries (Belgium, Ireland, Italy and France). SRAs act as mediating agents between private landlords and people in housing need, facilitating the process to sublet dwellings at an affordable rent to low-income tenants and to offer guarantees to landlords.
The Social Rental Enterprise model develops this concept further, based on the assumption that housing and employment problems have to be tackled simultaneously in order to empower people, to enable them to maintain their homes and have adequate income, thus it supplements the housing market services with labour and social services. SRE’s underlying assumption is that in order to help clients and their families to integrate successfully, it is necessary to enable them to be able to support themselves. By tackling labour market and housing integration simultaneously, the SRE aims at breaking the cycle of poverty. It aims at strengthening the sustainability of the individual intervention results, making them mutually reinforcing. The additional social services provided in the framework of the SRE, further improve the clients’ ability to enter the housing and labour market and sustain a more secure and improved position there.
The strength of the SRE model is that it offers an institutionalized model of integration, which moves beyond but also able to cooperate with the more usual practice of integration of these services in the framework of area-based programmes. The SRE also expands the usual concept of social housing, by integrating different forms of social housing provisions, such as the private rental market as an important source of affordable housing provision.
On the one hand intensive and personalised case handling lies at the core of the SRE model, allowing the close follow-up of clients. In the framework of HomeLab, each client will sign a contract of cooperation, providing the basis for working together and containing a personalised development plan. (The exact form and name of the contract might vary among the participating countries) The clients of HomeLab are selected as a result of a lengthy process, and they can realistically be expected to cooperate. (As a result, the client numbers in each participating pilot are rather low.) On the other hand, the creation of a partnership with local and national stakeholders not only allows the SREs to provide a full range of integrated services but paves the way of successful advocacy to institutionalize the SRE model.
In the SRE model:
Housing services are based on either acquiring the right to municipal social tenancy for the SRE client and his/her family or on finding stable housing on the private market. In both cases, the client will have a secure tenure, which is not only affordable but also provides a long-term solution to solving his/her housing problem. The SRE will either act as the manager of the housing stock – in case it owns/operates the social housing stock of the municipality – or be the intermediary actor, moderating between the parties and solving the issues of availability of stock, lack of trust or exaggerated deposit.
Employment services have two axes: in-country labour mobility on the one hand, and local labour market integration on the other. In areas where there is a strong demand for labour (either skilled or unskilled), it is a reasonable ambition to move prospective employees from weak market areas, where jobs are scarce. This does not only mean interregional mobility but might also mean helping persons move from relatively remote agglomeration towns with weak transport connections closer to urban centres with a greater demand for workforce. Employment services need to include networking with local employers, assessing needs in terms of human resources, and recruitment in job-scarce areas/settlements (with an excess supply of labour force). Additional services may help the integration of mobile workforce into their new environment. This activity requires coordinating with employment and social services in weak market regions. Employment services must also provide help for the local population. The target group of this activity is made up of households who face housing problems primarily due to unemployment or a disadvantageous labour market position. Within its target group, the SREs prioritize persons or households who can also in need of housing service provision: people without stable housing who are unable to enter the housing market due to their unsecured labour market position. They would receive complex housing and employment services from the SRE in order to prepare them to enter available training and employment programmes, to help them enter the labour market, and provide mentoring to help them stabilize their employment position.
Social services provide the third leg of the SRE. In the framework of the HomeLab project, they are partly provided by the personalised case handling of the social workers, partly by the national/local institutions. Building partnerships with them and making sure that social benefits available for the clients are duly received is an important task of the SRE.