Improvements are needed to ensure vulnerable residents get the support they expect and need.
Supported housing has played a valuable role for people who need additional support to live independently and safely.
It is a vital part of local housing offers. However, there has been an increasing issue with the ‘exempt accommodation’ sub-sector of supported housing.
In this type of housing, landlords that provide ‘more than minimal care, support or supervision’ get significantly higher levels of rent covered by housing benefit than under the normal rules.
While many housing providers are providing secure housing and personalised support, unfortunately some organisations are failing to deliver the necessary quality in provision or services to protect vulnerable people.
These include domestic abuse survivors, those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, rough sleepers, care leavers, and asylum seekers and refugees.
This has a significant and detrimental impact on the lives of the people who live in poor-quality housing without the right level of support, and the wider community, as well as a cost to the public purse.
A lack of transparency and regulation has also enabled some exploitative providers to profiteer.
Currently, councils have limited powers to act when there are concerns about the quality of exempt accommodation, the support that is provided and the concentration of this type of housing.
“A lack of transparency and regulation has enabled some providers to profiteer”
For example, the licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and some planning powers do not apply to exempt accommodation. It is also very difficult for councils to challenge unjustifiably high rents.
Councils, the LGA and housing charities, including Commonweal Housing and Crisis, have been campaigning for the exempt accommodation system to be reformed.
So, it is good news that the Government is acting on councils’ concerns and has announced its intention to bring forward a package of measures to put an end to landlords exploiting the exempt accommodation system.
The measures include:
- Minimum standards for the support provided to residents, to ensure residents receive the good quality support they expect and deserve in order to live as independently as possible and achieve their personal goals.
- New powers for local authorities in England to better manage their local supported housing market and ensure no individual falls through the cracks.
- Changes to housing benefit regulations to seek to define care, support and supervision to improve quality across all specified supported housing provision.
The Government will also provide £20 million for a Supported Housing Improvement Programme.
Funding for this three-year programme will be open to bids from all local authorities, to build on the success of the recent supported housing pilots while Government works to develop and implement longer-term measures.
People living in supported housing deserve to live in decent homes and to receive good quality, personalised support that meets their needs.
We look forward to working with government, supported housing providers, people with lived experience of supported housing and other partners to take forward the important measures the Government has announced.
It is also important that councils are adequately resourced to use new powers and that these reforms move along at pace.