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Chief Executive chat - Zoopla and Crisis

Property platform Zoopla joined forces with Crisis to raise vital funds in support of our services and publicly address the challenges preventing thousands of individuals and families across Great Britain from accessing a safe place to call home.  

Following the launch of our joint ‘Falling short’ report in August this year, which set out the urgent need for increased investment in both housing benefit and affordable lettings nationwide, our two Chief Executives Matthew Downie MBE (Crisis) and Charlie Bryant (Zoopla) met at Skylight London, one of our support hubs for people experiencing homelessness, to discuss the partnership to date, and the future of our work together.  

1. So both, how did you find your first meeting? 

MD: After what feels like years of virtual meetings with colleagues and partners, it felt so refreshing to sit down face to face with Charlie to reflect on what we’ve achieved so far together, and what’s still to come. Senior engagement is always the bedrock of a successful collaboration, and Charlie’s commitment to supporting Crisis through our partnership with Zoopla was plain to see from the moment he arrived at Skylight London. 

CB: It was fantastic to finally meet Matt in person after many months of conversation virtually. As we approach the end of the year, I think it’s always worthwhile to take a moment away from the day-to-day - and pause and reflect on both what we have achieved this year and the big opportunities for next year. 

I firmly believe that it’s the roles of CEOs today to think outside of their immediate organisation and look to make a positive difference to society. It was great to speak to Matt, a fellow CEO who is so aligned with this ambition. 

2. What excites you most about the Zoopla and Crisis partnership? 

MD:  The scale and range of opportunities presented by this partnership is so unique. Zoopla are well-placed to support Crisis to make homelessness a thing of the past: they are a household name with a huge reach and ability to engage with the public, an incredible network of contacts in both the political and professional spheres and above all an amazingly supportive and creative staff.  

Zoopla have been a joy to work with to date, both on co-producing our ‘Falling Short’ report and Christmas research for December 2022 and in raising funds for Crisis through payroll giving and challenge events like the Skylight-to-Skylight walking challenge, which was their own invention. I am excited to see Zoopla and Crisis come together publicly to challenge the injustices we see play out daily in the housing sector, whether that’s on national news, lettings advisory boards or even in Westminster. 

CB: We’re really excited to use our position in the property industry to educate and work together with parties including landlords and agents to understand how to support ending homelessness - and help shift consumer perceptions and perceived stereotypes around this issue. For example, many of us often think of homelessness as individuals sleeping rough - however, the sad reality is that this is only the tip of the iceberg, with many more individuals experiencing homelessness in less obvious ways like couch surfing or temporary accommodation. 

Central to this partnership is creating a wider conversation within the industry and identifying areas where we can use our consumer reach and influence to help boost transparency and raise standards across the rental market to the benefit of renters, agents and landlords. We’ve made great inroads in this ambition with the launch of our research which shines a light on the gap between housing benefit levels and market rents. However this is only the beginning, with lots more to come in 2023 including further meaningful research and enabling further important conversations across the industry.  

3. What challenges can you foresee in the months to come? 

MD: The cost-of-living crisis isn’t going away, and households across Great Britain will continue to feel the pinch over the coming months as the prices of fuel, energy and food soar. We’re devastated when we consider that many people may soon be pushed into homelessness for the first time, whilst those who are already experiencing homelessness will find it harder than ever before to secure a home and pay the cost of their rent and bills each month.

We’re more determined than ever before to raise the vital funds we need to continue offering our life-changing support services to those already experiencing homelessness across our 11 Skylight centres, whilst also working to make the case for change to the governments of England, Scotland and Wales. 

CB: The cost of living will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge facing the entire gamut of the property industry - with factors like energy and food prices, and rising rents and mortgage rates having a knock on effect on renters and homeowners alike. This makes it more important than ever that we use our position in the industry to be a force for good - both when it comes to pushing for regulatory changes - and providing guidance and advice to consumers on how to navigate these challenging times. 

4. Lastly, what are your organisation’s priorities looking like for 2023? 

MD: Securing a financially sustainable future for Crisis is our key priority, amidst ever-increasing financial uncertainty across the country. Our Fundraising teams are working flat out, together with our incredible supporters and corporate partners like Zoopla, to make sure we can deliver the essential services we need to support people experiencing homelessness, whether that’s opening our doors at Crisis at Christmas to provide food, care and companionship for the most vulnerable individuals, or offering year-round support with employment, housing, wellbeing and training at our 11 Skylight centres.  

Ending the homelessness of more of our members is urgent, whilst achieving the key policy changes we need to make the system fairer will help ensure that more support is in place for those at the sharpest end of the cost-of-living crisis in 2023 and beyond. 

CB: The cost of living crisis is a real reminder of just how important our work with Crisis is - this will be a key priority for Zoopla in 2023 - alongside pushing for meaningful policy changes to raise the standards across the rental market and reduce the routes into homelessness. 

In addition to this, we’ll be focused on delivering our consumer ambition to be the trusted destination where UK homeowners and renters come first to make all their property decisions and for our agent and housebuilder customers - our priority will be providing strong return on investment as we navigate these challenging macroeconomic circumstances.