Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has signed a joint letter calling on the Government to make “urgent” reforms in the exempt accommodation sector.
Alongside other leading organisations including Commonweal Housing and the Local Government Association (LGA), St Mungo’s is urging the Government to address inequalities and under-regulation in the system, and work towards the provision of appropriate, good quality housing and support for thousands of individuals with complex needs.
In the open letter, which has been sent to the both the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), concern is expressed about some “exploitative” housing providers, and emphasises the need for a new strategy to ensure that tenants are not forced to live in dangerous, “sub-standard” accommodation.
The latest figures show that more than 150,000 households in Britain are living in exempt accommodation, which primarily houses people with high support needs such as those leaving prison, refugees, and people with a history of sleeping rough.
Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “While many exempt accommodation landlords provide crucial housing and support to those with complex needs, the evidence shows that for many, the accommodation is poor quality and the wrap around support, virtually non-existent. This is a situation that is unacceptable.
“Our findings from the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping echo the work of Commonweal and the LGA on the issues with exempt accommodation in its current form.
“We need to ensure that all accommodation offered to people who have experienced homelessness is of a good standard, and managed by competent landlords. This can achieved by comprehensive regulation of this type of accommodation, in the same way that supported housing is regulated.
“We would like to see a national standard of expectations and increased funding for schemes such as Housing First, which provide a tenancy first as a platform for change, with intensive and flexible support to help clients address their support needs.”
The letter outlines several recommendations for improvements to the system, including:
- Measures to ensure that care, support and supervision meets the necessary and expected quality
- That Government provides local authorities with sustained funding to support services that meet local needs
- The closure of loopholes that grant the opportunity to exploit the system;
- Further strengthening the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing to proactively act in this area
- To support, enable and fund councils to review their local situation
In response to the letter, a DLUHC spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable for anyone to abuse the exempt accommodation system, which is why we have invested over £5m to support some of the worst-affected areas.
“We welcome this letter, which highlights ongoing issues in the sector that must be addressed and we continue to work with councils to drive out rogue landlords so vulnerable people can access the accommodation and support they deserve.”