Practical Bravery: JOHN VERGE



In this episode of The Possibility Club, we’re shining a light on a company that leans into the wicked problems of both care and housing. A company that takes the role of landlord, and developer – finding and maintaining housing stock. But it is housing stock for people who need care, and who want to have a high quality of life but need adjustments and understanding.

What kind of business, and what sort of business mindset, develops a mission like this – in a space others run away from?

Richard’s guest this week has a vision for a world in which a world everyone with a learning disability has good housing and their needs met. He runs one of the largest community benefit societies in the UK, with a portfolio of over 1200 properties and over 2,000 tenants with a wide range of needs.

Meet the CEO of Golden Lane Housing; John Verge.

Key quotes:

“It’s got to feel like anybody’s home.”

“There are 1.1 million adults with a learning disability and at least 350,000 people with autism. They live in everyone’s communities. Around about 150,000 of those will receive some support or funding from local government or their health authority, and that comes at a £6billion cost to Treasury. So this isn’t a small, niche part of the social care or health sector.”

“We do do ‘new build’ but the reality of commissioning in this country is very reactive. We’ve been talking with government about more strategic planning for local authorities and health authorities to better plan. But often we’re being approached to house people very quickly.”

“We have a team of really dedicated housing officers who make sure that wellbeing and safeguarding is at the forefront of our work.”

“We tend to buy existing properties but they need to be in the right location and community setting, so not isolated, often finding those properties is difficult and when we find that property we need to do major renovations.”

“A lot of failures are down to housing associations not taking into account the vulnerability of their tenants — and a blurring of the lines between social housing and supported housing.”

“Scrutiny of new tenants will be greater than now.”

“We created a product, a solution, where we took the lease directly from the landlord. Now we’re trying to find landlords who are prepared to do not just 12 or 24 months but a longer term arrangement.”

“The home, for anybody, is the foundations of building their lives in their communities.”

“For me this isn’t about more money, it’s about using the money we have better. Fundamentally, and we’ve been saying this for many years, it’s about more strategic planning.”

This episode was recorded in May 2023

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


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