Thursday, 08 December 2016

Localism Bill pushes homeless into private sector

Powers to stop homeless people refusing private sector housing have been published in the Localism Bill.

The measure was proposed last month by the Communities and Local Government department in a consultation on the reform of social housing. This closes on 17 January.

The bill says a local housing authority will no longer have a duty to someone with priority need - under section 193 of the Housing Act 1996 - if the ‘applicant refuses an offer of accommodation which the authority are satisfied is suitable for the applicant’.

Previously councils could offer someone who is in priority need private sector accommodation but the applicant could refuse it, forcing the council to place them in expensive temporary accommodation.

Housing charity Shelter said it was ‘alarmed’ at the proposal.

Chief executive Campbell Robb said: ‘It is unbelievable that at a time when every two minutes someone faces the nightmare of losing their home, the government is proposing to reduce the rights of homeless people who approach their local authorities for help.

‘We urge the government to think again about the cumulative effects of its policies on people who are at real risk of losing their home.’

A homelessness manager who works for a London council, who did not wish to be named, said problems local authorities already have with using private sector providers for temporary accommodation could be exacerbated.

‘Because there are so few landlords and boroughs fighting for them, you just take it [the accommodation],’ he explained. ‘But we don’t have as much information about the landlords as we would like and they can be as unprofessional as they like.

‘It will probably be the same type of landlords we use for temporary accommodation and I see the problems being replicated.’

A CLG spokesperson said: ‘Some local authorities have been asking for this change to the homelessness legislation for several years because of the shortage of social housing stock. We are listening to them.

‘The tenancy must be for a fixed term of at least 12 months and the homelessness duty will recur if the applicant becomes homeless again within two years through no fault of their own, regardless of whether they still have priority need.’

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