Monday, 02 March 2015

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.’

Readers' comments (4)

  • Chris Webb

    It could be made fair if the legislation included a clause that the location and cost of the housing should not be such as to work as a barrier to employment either through geographic location or compounding benefit dependency.
    It could be made fairer still if the legislation included a clause that ensured family support networks and community connections such as schooling and health care must be continued to ensure family stability.

    Both these items would save the taxpayer money by meeting support through family, reducing benefit dependency through opportunities to work and access to affordable housing, and through sustainable communities and avoiding family disfunction.

    If the Tory's proposals are allowed through we will all be paying in the future for this in a way that makes PFI seem like pocket change.

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  • * +

    I hope there will be some sort of responsibility placed on the LA that if they place a homeless person in some dreadful dive with a careless landlord they have also the responisibility to prioritise them for something more suitable when it becomes available. If they don't, the slum landlords will be laughing and people will end up caught in a downward cycle of prro hosing, prospects and health

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  • michael barratt

    With nothing much driving the UK economy, with little to export excepting perhaps British banking expertise, it would seem the LibCons have decided that social provision should become a profit centred activity with core activities directed towards exploiting the homeless, unemployed, the disabled and the elderly. How long will it be before those disadvantaged groups be required to wear so sort of distinguishing emblem sewn onto their clothing?

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  • Eric Blair

    Given that the standard of housing in the PRS is often lower than it is the social rented sector, I wonder how society will deal with the inevitable problems which will arise from further marginalising an already vulnerable group?

    Exporting homelessness people to outlying areas will certainly create a unique set of problems which didn't exist before. It's no small thing. It smacks of burying a problem... Getting rid of the great unwashed so they don't lower the price of property in the City.

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