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Antonia Swinson, CEO of the Ethical Property Foundation, tells us why the voluntary sector needs only six minutes to best understand the property picture across London.

A special London edition of the Charity Matters Report, funded by Square Mile grant maker City Bridge Trust, will be published later this year.

And it promise to provide a vivid picture of the London voluntary sector’s property trends, challenges and issues. This will be required reading not just for charities and social enterprises but also for funders, lenders, landlords and London’s local authorities.

The last London Survey in 2018 revealed for the first time that more London charities now rent from commercial landlords than local authorities and core funding to cover property costs are a fast-growing challenge.

Other shock findings also highlighted additional pressures facing the sector in the capital competed to the rest of the country: 68% of London charities did not have a strategic property plan; 51% had no-one specifically responsible for property within their organisation (9% higher compared to the rest of England and Wales) and over half the  London charities (53%)  surveyed did not report regularly on property to trustees (compared to 44% across the whole of England and Wales).

The Ethical Property Foundation has run its property advice service in London since 2006. Last year the charity directly supported 108 London organisations while providing free and low-cost workshop training to over 100 more.

All its services have been shaped by the Survey’s findings over the years – from property health checks to training on how to negotiate your lease.

Demand for support has also been driven by savvier voluntary organisations. Charity trustees now seek training to help them to make good property decisions and as interest rates remain low, there is growing interest in buying rather than renting suitable premises or letting out space and learning how to maximise energy efficiency.

London’s landlords are also more interested to understand and support this growing sector.  Yet too often among smaller organisations in the capital, property is not seen as a priority – until they are forced to close services, or the charity is wound up.

This year’s  Charity Property Matters Survey 2020  is therefore hugely important to help understand what London’s voluntary sector needs and how we can work together to overcome the property challenges. Interim survey results will be published in late spring, with the full report launched in November.

The questionnaire is accessible from the homepage of EPF’s website propertyhelp.org and only takes six minutes to fill out.

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