The rapid rise in exempt accommodation is of great concern in the West Midlands — with a lack of supply and no explicit funding for housing related support compounding the problem. There are an increasing number of providers who exploit the model to generate significant income, constituting low value-for-money for the taxpayer. The quality of many of these properties falls far below decent standards, putting tenants at risk and trapping some of our most vulnerable citizens in poor quality housing.
Young people without family support must grapple with the complexity of the welfare benefits system whilst struggling to ‘get on’ at work. Universal Credit for young people is currently below the official destitution level1, while housing support entitlement in the private rented sector is at the shared accommodation rate. This complexity means that work often loses out to the greater fear of losing critical benefits.
Research by The Homelessness Taskforce in 2021 showed a total of 3,518 families with dependent children were living in temporary accommodation across the WMCA area.
By designing out homelessness, we won’t only transform the lives of those residents who our interventions will support, but also reduce the burden on the public purse, help to restore pride in place, and contribute to the local economy and community cohesion.
By working with local authorities and Government to develop, test, and iterate the proposed new regulatory environment, we can address unscrupulous providers and improve the quality of exempt supported accommodation.
In a Live and Work scheme, the rents are deflated below benefit levels so that tenants can pay their rent entirely from their earned income and be benefit free. We want them to be able to live, work, earn, and learn, as well as have a safe, affordable housing offer which enables that.
The Flexible Support Fund has tremendous potential to add value to other support measures. With greater flexibility it could provide the complementary ingredient to enable people to sustain their homes and make the changes necessary to find and keep employment, recognising that some have further to progress than others. This could include using the fund for our proposed Recovery Tenancy model, LHA plus model, address fuel poverty and more.
Levelling Up Mission:
By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.
Progress So Far…
- The WMCA Homelessness Taskforce was set up by the Mayor of the WestMidlands and brings together all seven constituent local authorities, key public sector agencies, voluntary and community sector organisations and representation from the business community to tackle homelessness.
- The Homelessness Taskforce’s central aim is to design out homelessness by identifying gaps in strategies, policies, procedures, laws, structures, systems and relationships that either cause or fail to prevent homelessness.
- It adds value to the work of our local It adds value to the work of our local authorities and wider partners, for example, it has accommodated over 500 people through its Housing First programme and over 1200individuals have been supported through the WMCA Rough Sleeping Initiative.
- Birmingham was one of five SupportedHousing Oversight Pilots which address the concentration of poor-quality accommodation in particular areas.
- The St Basils Live and Work scheme in Sandwell provides accommodation for young workers aged 16-24, for under £43per week, without having to rely on welfare.
- Improve non-commissioned exemptsupported accommodation through a ‘test’area, in which local authorities have more power around enforcement and licensingto resolve issues. Requires redirectingcurrent levels of spend on DWP housingbenefit subsidy to a regional level;
- Replicate the Live and Work scheme trialledat St. Basil’s in Sandwell in other areasthrough allowing the WMCA the powersand flexibility – notably on grant levels-to use the region’s affordable housingprogramme to deliver more live and workhousing;
- Optimise the DWP Flexible Support Fundby allowing WMCA to influence how it isprioritised and spent at the local level.
What We Hope to Achieve
- No families with children in temporary accommodation
- Increase in total affordable housing supply
- Reduced house price to income ratio
- Fewer people homeless or in low quality exempt accommodation