Impact Investing in Social Housing: A Case Study of Cheyne Capital

Serena Lehua Jarvis

Supervisors: Mark Cousins, Costandis Kizis

This thesis presents the first in-depth academic study on impact investing in social housing, specifically focusing on the case of Cheyne Capital, the London-based alternative investment manager, and their role in developing housing for disadvantaged groups. Looking at one of the earliest examples of impact investing – an emergent market that has not been institutionalised as of yet – this research examines the mechanisms that have been set up by Big Society Capital (BSC), the world’s first social investment wholesale bank, to introduce Social Investment Financial Intermediaries (SIFIs), suchas Cheyne Capital, in order to help build a new market to finance the social sector. It further examines the challenges that the hedge fund faced as a new social landlord, particularly those relating to inefficiencies in building procurement and their pledge to demonstrate a measurable social impact, alongside a financial return, for each investment. Moreover, the thesis shows how this new model was employed to invest circa £1 billion into housing for disadvantaged groups, in a period of austerity. Also, this case introduces a design for a proto-typical housing module for housing without a site, which can be replicated and scaled and briefly introduces a common framework for how we might measure social impact in future work.

Image: Integral Housing Strategy, the proposed design for Cheyne Capital’s first project with Luton Borough Council, Luton. Elevation view of three building blocks for social housing. Design and drawing by Gustav Düsing. 

Biography: Serena Lehua Jarvis is a Doctoral Candidate at the Architectural Association, School of Architecture in London. Prior to starting her DPhil, Serena graduated with distinction from the Bartlett, Faculty of the Built Environment with MSc in Building & Urban Design in Development in 2011, where she received a special commendation on her dissertation. Serena has experience in one of the earliest cases of impact investing in social housing. To achieve this, Serena worked as the Architectural Consultant of the Social Property Impact Fund of Cheyne Capital Management, the London-based alternative investment manager, in 2015. Serena’s interests focus on advancing the emergent field of impact investing in housing and examining how we might use design to strengthen the social impact in housing for disadvantaged groups and inform social impact measurement, in the context of this market.