Social Housing Speed Read – the Homelessness Reduction Bill
7th November, 2016
We update you on the progress of the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17 after it received Government backing and was voted through its Second Reading on 28 October.
The Government announces its backing of the Bill
Following our previous Speed Read on the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17, the Government has since announced its support of the Bill.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid confirmed the Government is “determined to do all it can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track”.
This support comes after negotiations which saw the proposed obligation on local authorities to temporarily house those homeless people who are not in priority removed in its entirety on the grounds that it would be too onerous in terms of both demand on housing and cost.
The Bill was also successfully voted through to next stage at its Second Reading on 28 October after receiving unanimous and cross-party support from MPs.
This is welcome news for its supporters and those who thought the Bill may be talked out. Ultimately it means the Bill is a step closer to becoming law.
What special measures does the Bill introduce?
The Bill is made up of the following 12 measures:
1. A change to the meaning of ‘homeless’ and ‘threatened homelessness’, whereby each household that has received an eviction notice is to be treated as homeless from the date on which the notice expires and the period at which a person is threatened with homelessness has been changed from 28 to 56 days.
2. All homeless people have access to free advice and information.
3. Local authorities are required to carry out an assessment of what led to each applicant’s homelessness, and set out steps to remedy this in an agreed, written plan.
4. Local authorities are required to help secure accommodation for all eligible households who are threatened with homelessness, and at an earlier stage
5. Local authorities are required to provide those who find themselves to be homeless with support for a further 56 days to help them secure accommodation.
6. Local authorities are able to take action to help to secure accommodation under the new duties to help homeless households.
7. Households in priority need who refuse to co-operate with prevention and/or relief activity will be offered a minimum of a six month private rented sector tenancy. They will not progress to the main homelessness duty. Households not in priority need who refuse to co-operate would be provided with advice and information only.
8. All young people leaving care will be deemed to have a local connection in the area of the local authority that is responsible for providing them with leaving care services under the Children Act 1989.
9. Applications are provided with the right to request a review in relation to the prevention and relief duties.
10. The introduction of a duty on specified local agencies to refer those either homeless or at risk of being homeless to local authority housing teams.
11. The Secretary of State has the power to produce a statutory Code of Practice to help raise the standards of homelessness support services across the country.
12. A local housing authority must satisfy itself that certain specified requirements are in place where it secures accommodation for vulnerable households in the private rented sector.
The Bill will now go to committee stage in which it will be scrutinised by MPs and the committee will be given the opportunity to obtain evidence from experts and interest groups from outside Parliament.
There will be undoubtedly be many volunteers judging by the support for the Bill so far, with one charity confirming after the Second Reading that the Government “must continue to build on what we’ve achieved today, both to get the Bill through parliament and to make it work for homeless people if and when it finally becomes law”.
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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