Social Housing Speed Read – the Homelessness Reduction Act
15th May, 2017
The first notable piece of homelessness legislation in 15 years received royal assent on 27 April 2017.
It is hoped that we are finally seeing the issue of rough sleeping addressed and that this Act will transform the delivery of homelessness services.
As well as the Homelessness Reduction Act becoming law, one of Andy Burnham’s first actions as Mayor of Greater Manchester is a pledge to donate 15% of his £110,000 salary to ending rough sleeping in the city by 2020 and the launch of the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Homelessness Fund.
Is homelessness slowly but surely getting the recognition it needs?
What does the Homelessness Reduction Act do?
Councils have a number of new responsibilities and duties under the legislation, namely:
- To act within 56 days of a household being threatened with homelessness
- Offering homelessness prevention advice to anyone who requires it (as opposed to those just considered in priority need) on preventing homelessness, how to get accommodation, their rights and how to access help.
- Assessing the housing needs of anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness
- Advice services must meet the needs of people released from prison, care leavers, former Armed Forces members, domestic abuse victims, people leaving hospital, those suffering from mental illness and anyone else identified as particularly at risk of homelessness.
When will councils have to take on their new duties?
It was anticipated that the Government would provide guidance on how the new legislation should be adopted; however the election has led to a delay in this. The Government also needs to lay regulations in parliament which could take some time.
Councils in London are working under the assumption that the new duties will not come into force until April 2018 according to Steve Bullock, executive member for housing at London Councils and mayor of Lewisham.
The Government has previously pledged to provide £61 million over two years to councils to meet the costs associated with these new duties.
However, Mr Bullock believes that there will be an increase of £77 million spent on temporary accommodation by councils in London when the new duties come into force. Additional money may be made available for those in high pressure areas.
There will be a review of the implementation of the Act after two years, including review of its resourcing and its operation in practice.
Ultimately, we will need to wait for the guidance from the Government. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the issue of homelessness is addressed in the general election. Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs for Crisis, believes that “it’s time for homelessness to feature as an election issue and as a priority for the next UK government”.
The Homelessness Reduction Act is certainly a step in the right direction. However, as Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, pointed out before the Act received royal assent “councils need powers and funding to address the widening gap between incomes and rents, resume their historic role as a major builder of new affordable homes and join up all local services – such as health, justice and skills. This is the only way to deliver our collective ambition to end homelessness.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced 13 fact sheets on the Homelessness Reduction Act which are available here.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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