“Socially-minded” is not how some would characterise the private property sector but a Dunbartonshire business is doing its best to change that perception.
Kingsmith Property have created an innovative model for property development and investment in Scotland with social responsibility at its heart.
Kingsmith Property was set up by Mary Ann Smith and Paul Kingham in 2017 after identifying the opportunity for a private sector business to provide meaningful solutions to some of the current housing issues.
Both Mary Ann and Paul are from a public service backgrounds. Paul, a Chartered Accountant, had worked in private practice and the NHS before being seconded to the Scottish Housing Regulator as Head of Planning and Performance. Mary Ann was an Organisational Development Consultant and qualified Executive Coach practising within the NHS and private sectors across Scotland. Through their work with people who faced complex social challenges they realised that, without access to good quality homes, interventions were never as effective as they could be.
Paul’s work for the Scottish Housing Regulator also highlighted the disparity between the high standards of practice in social housing and the lack of anything similar in the private sector: “On the one hand social housing provides high quality provision to some of society’s most vulnerable groups. On the other, in the private rental sector, we saw lots of social and political barriers that limited access to the same quality of homes for many individuals and families’.
“The private sector can be inaccessible to many people – a situation that can be exacerbated by complex and challenging life events. This, coupled with the drop in the amount of social housing and lack of legislative impact, often results in restricted and poor quality housing choices for these groups.”
Mary Ann and Paul come from business development and change management backgrounds which means they are always looking for opportunities to do things differently and to innovate. This led them to set up Kingsmith Property as what they describe as a “socially minded property development and investment company” to try and solve some of the current housing problems.
Mary Ann explains Kingsmith’s corporate vision: “We want to set a benchmark for the private rental sector by making homes available that share the high standards that underpin the social housing sector. We have an intimate understanding of the importance of providing those people facing complex social challenges with somewhere that is safe and secure and feels like home. We want to do something to tackle some of the inequalities and inconsistencies instead of just talking about them.”
Since setting the company up Mary Ann and Paul have focused on building their own knowledge, skills and competence as well as building relationships with like-minded individuals and organisations. One of their first partnerships was with the social enterprise, Homes for Good, to take on the full management of some of Kingsmith’s rental properties so they could provide effective support for all their tenants, especially during those difficult times in life. They continue to widen their network with other organisations such as Shelter Scotland, Housing Associations and via a range of business networks including Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce.
Kingsmith now provides a full range of end-to-end services from Property Investment, Property Sourcing and Project Management to Coaching and Mentoring to enable clients to develop their own capabilities.
They have a growing number of international and UK clients, who help support their social mission.
Mary Ann adds: “Simply by using our services all our clients help us fulfil our corporate objectives and the social responsibility aligned with these. What is really satisfying is that, as we develop relationships with clients, their understanding and value of these other social benefits increases.”
People and skills are also a priority for the business that currently has a core team of five. Kingsmith are developing an apprenticeship scheme and provide work experience opportunities as part of Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce “Building Bridges” Skills Programme. Additionally, the business has provided mentoring for two graduates and paid internships.
With the recent appointment of a General Manager, Kingsmith continue to build their capabilities and a momentum that has seen 32 empty homes brought back into the private rental market in the last 18 months.
Kingsmith’s plans are to continue to grow the business over the next 5 years and to create 23 full time jobs to help provide “1000 homes for 1000 families in Scotland by 2030”.
To find out more about Kingsmith Property visit kingsmithproperty.com