1. What does FHS do?
FHS was created to realize the Social Housing Programme, an initiative of Fondazione Cariplo to promote social housing projects.
FHS solely pursues objectives of social solidarity and aims to contribute towards resolving the housing problems of families and other people, with particular emphasis on situations of financial and social disadvantage. FHS also aims encourage the creation of housing contexts in which people, through their own direct and responsible participation, can be supported by an appropriate network of services and can experience positive relationships with the other residents in their community. FHS offers to promote, design, test out and, where necessary, manage all actions it is possible to do to realize socially-orientated housing initiatives and dynamic community contexts.
In developing its own activity, FHS has more generally taken on the role of promoting the social housing sector and of transferring good practices which in other countries, mostly but not exclusively in Europe, have spread to the point where they represent a very significant portion of the housing stock.
2. What is FHS’s role?
FHS works by project, with the objective of realizing new affordable dwellings and enabling the start-up of methods of non-profit social management of the homes. For this reason the activity is focussed on the setting up of each social housing project, on the management of the relationships between the various actors involved and on the design of new tools and organizational models.
FHS does not take responsibility for the management of the homes , neither does it take part in the assignment process. For this reason, FHS calls on a wide range of interlocutors but is unable to give a direct response to those who are looking for a home: this role is the exclusive responsibility of the Social Managers who will take care of managing the dwellings, the resident community and the social and neighbourhood services.
3. What services does FHS offer?
In carrying out its own activity, FHS offers to organize the supply of the following types of services:
a) general services;
b) basic services;
c) additional services.
General Services are those targeted at the dissemination of social housing, at training and at the promotion of the sector.
Basic Services are those that relate to the preliminary evaluation process and to the general orientation of a specific social housing intervention.
Additional Services relate to the activities of consultancy and assistance in the executive planning phase, of execution, of start-up and preparation of specific projects; the activities of consultancy and assistance of a financial nature; the activities of training and the promotion of specific initiatives.
4. Is it possible to join FHS?
It is possible to request to join. Decisions on admissions rest with the FHS Board of directors.
5. What is the difference between a Social Housing project within the SIF programme and Public Housing?
Public Housing is governed by specific regulations established by the regional authorities – which, for example, have very strict rules regarding the assignment of the dwellings – and predominantly involves public sector operators such as the ALER (Azienda Lombarda Edilizia Residenziale, Social Housing Regional Agency) and local authorities. Public Housing looks at housing requirements starting from the most deprived social targets (controlled rent) up to those whose income is moderate but insufficient to afford market rents (affordable rent), making use of various forms of subsidies. A Social Housing project within SIF (the Italian platform to fund private social and affordable housing), even it if was developed in collaboration with public entities, is a private initiative that, because it is not based on external subsidies, starts from the concept of sustainability and aims to promote models of non-profit management of the dwellings of the services for residents. For this reason the assignment of dwellings, the type of rental regime applied and other factors relating to the projects are not the result of the application of regulations but, rather, are defined by the objective of maximising the interest from a specific segment of population – i.e. young couples, single-income families, students, the elderly, foreigners and other individuals in fragile conditions – and also by the objective of creating sustainable communities and sustainable investments for the ethical real-estate fund. In fact, the ethical fund’s interventions will in any case be predominantly directed at residents with the requisite characteristics for affordable rent, thus reducing the number of people who put their names down on the public lists for the assignment of a council house.
6. Who are the investors who provide the funds to realize the Social Housing projects?
They are mainly institutional investors, such as the FIA (Investment Fund for Housing) managed by CDPI Sgr SpA, insurance foundations, banks, pension funds etc.
7. What is an ethical real-Estate fund in the Integrated Fund System (SIF) and how does it work?
The ethical fund works like a regular real-estate investment fund whose management rules set is limited to ensure that it is dedicated to social housing interventions, that is it not speculative in nature, and that it develops its own investment activities in a way that is coherent with the aims of the Social Housing projects within the SIF. The fund is usually managed by Asset Management Companies that take their decisions after discussing them before an advisory committee, whose members are identified by the fund’s investors. The fund has a limited lifespan, equivalent to 20-30 years, during which time it develops the social housing interventions, it leases them principally for rent to the residents and then, when the time comes for the fund to be liquidated, it sells them in accordance with the procedures established in advance.
8. What are the criteria used to define the fund’s ethical conduct?
An “ethical” fund is defined as a fund that adopts particular limitations in relation to its own investment strategies in order to respect specific principles or objectives of a non-financial nature. For example, the FIL (Lombardy Ethical Real-Estate Fund) may invest in social housing interventions, it offers its investors a limited financial return (equivalent to 3% above the annual rate of inflation) and, in the case of higher than expected performance, limits the returns to investors to 5% above the annual rate of inflation. In more general terms, the players who participate in the fund’s activities, first and foremost the management company, have all accepted particularly limited returns and they participate with the aim of supporting socially-responsible initiatives which have a relevant impact on the territory.
9. Can I invest in one of the SIF’s funds?
ASIF fund is reserved to institutional investors, that is to investors who meet particular requisites that guarantee that they are in a position to independently evaluate the risks connected with the investment.
10. Does FHS operate on a national level?
FHS is active through the whole of Italy and since 2016 started a number of international partnership projects.
11. Do you provide grants, or do you give contributions to help pay the rent?
FHS does not provide grants; this is an activity that is performed directly by Fondazione Cariplo. Fondazione Cariplo is involved in Social Housing projects primarily in the first and second phase, indicating each year in its own calls the type of initiatives that may be proposed to obtain financing, and how to do this. For other forms of contribution and subsidy, please take a look at the options offered by Regione Lombardia or other authorities.
12. What type of services are offered in the scope of your projects (just the dwellings or also social services?)
Each project provides for the realization of small neighbourhoods rather than individual dwellings, inside which the community can organize to manage itself and the collaborative and neighbourhood services. The residents therefore enjoy affordable rents in a context that is full of services, of both a social and commercial nature, and they are requested to participate in the realization of these services (active participation is encouraged).
13. How is the residential and social mix of the buildings achieved?
The residential mix, or so-called “social project”, is one of the most important aspects in the success of social housing initiatives. A project that is not very diversified may easily lead to a “ghetto” effect; one that is too diversified may complicate the formation of a true community. The residential mix is defined during the initial planning phases together with the entity who is making the intervention site available (typically a Municipality); the mix of tenants that FHS tries to attract is made up of young couples, single-income families, students, the elderly, foreigners and other individuals in fragile conditions, in order to create a diverse, balanced community. The residential and social mix may also be influenced by operators who accompany the start-up of the new community of residents.
14. Do you assign homes and apartments for rent? Do you sell or restructure homes?
FHS promotes projects but typically does not itself contribute, manage or assign dwellings directly (this may happen in exceptional cases). The assignment of dwellings is therefore the responsibility of Social Managers who take charge of the management of the dwellings. Under special circumstances and over rather long time-frames, a proportion of the dwellings may be conceded to the residents.
15. Do you outsource the construction of the dwellings or other maintenance services?
The contracts for the works and services are assigned by each ethical real-estate fund and, specifically, by the companies in charge of its management (SGR). The criteria for assignment follow the general principles of the project and the commitments made with the entities who make the land available for the projects, such as those included in the agreements stipulated with the Municipalities. In general, the tenders follow selection principles using competitive procedures but there is no obligation to respect the same procedures foreseen for public entities.
16. Do you help people to buy homes, for example through guaranteed loans?
FHS is not a bank and does not deal with financing operations or of the issuing of guarantees for third parties. Within its own activities it can study credit access instruments (for example, proposing them for implementation to the regional authorities or other institutions), but even in this case it does not occupy the role of direct provider of financing or guarantees.
17. Do you offer special mortgage conditions?
FHS is not a bank and does not deal with financing operations for third parties. Within its own activities it can study credit access instruments (for example, proposing them for implementation to the regional authorities or other institutions), but even in this case it does not occupy the role of direct provider of financing or guarantees. Neither do the ethical real-estate funds provide mortgages, an activity which is prohibited under current law.
18. If a non-profit entity is looking for a base or for accommodation structures, can it contact FHS?
Yes. Within the realization of a social housing project there may be spaces available for third-sector entities. This will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.