Supported housing: law reform

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“Exempt accommodation” is a form of supported housing which, hitherto, had been very lightly regulated. The underlying idea is that the landlord provides not just a roof over your head, but also provides specialist support services (e.g. domestic abuse support, drug or alcohol support etc). The “exempt” part of the name refers to the fact that it is exempt from the housing benefit caps which apply in normal private sector lettings.

In recent years, it has seen a huge growth as many unscrupulous providers entered the market and exploited vulnerable people, providing minimal (if any) support but charging enormous sums of money which were then paid by housing benefit (see, for example, BBC news reports here and here).

In October 2022, a Parliamentary Select Committee report was published which called for a new regulatory system to be introduced (available here). Bob Blackman MP, working with Crisis, Justin Bates and Joe Thomas, introduced a Private Members Bill to establish that regulatory regime. Following detailed negotiations and discussions (see, e.g., the Select Committee evidence session here), the government agreed to support the Bill and, today (16.6.23) it completed its passage through Parliament. It now goes to the King for Royal Assent at which stage it will become law.

The soon-to-be Act can be found here. It will result in local authorities being given power to licence exempt accommodation in a similar manner to that which applies to ordinary private sector properties under Parts 2 and 3, Housing Act 2004. If licensing proves ineffective to address the abuses associated with the sector then the Secretary of State will be required to consider whether changes to planning law are required in order to address the abuses.

The Act will also introduce national standards for the provision of care and support at exempt accommodation properties.

Finally, persons who leave exempt accommodation for reasons relating to the quality of the property or the care and support are not to be found intentionally homeless (Part 7, Housing Act 1996) as a result.

Justin Bates and Joe Thomas were responsible for the drafting of the Bill, working with Crisis and the Chartered Institute of Housing.

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