Over 150,000 households in controversial exempt accommodation
“No-one should be put through this” says current tenant
Over 150,000 households in Great Britain are being housed in ‘exempt’ accommodation, a sector which national homelessness charity Crisis calls ‘dangerously under-regulated’.
‘Exempt accommodation’ is intended for people with support needs, including those who have been homeless, recently left prison, fled domestic violence or are dealing with addiction issues.
The housing is supposed to come with additional support, which makes it ‘exempt’ from caps on Local Housing Allowance to cover the costs. This allows providers to charge higher rents, which are covered 100% by the Department of Work and Pensions through Housing Benefit.
But due to a lack of meaningful oversight and regulation, many exempt providers are abusing the system for financial gain: providing little or no support, whilst leaving tenants in poorly managed, often dangerous accommodation.
Freedom of Information data obtained by Crisis shows that 153,701 households in Great Britain were housed in exempt accommodation as of May 2021. This represents a 62% increase from 2016 to 2021.
Through a separate FOI, registered provider Prospect Housing has revealed that at least £816m was spent by government on exempt accommodation in the last financial year alone.
Lauren has been living in exempt accommodation in Birmingham since June 2020. A 30 year-old former salon manager, she lost her flat after being forced to stop work due to chronic back pain and anxiety caused by domestic abuse.
She said “The treatment I’ve had in these properties has been disgusting. In one I had a workman come into my room unannounced while I was dressing. He told me I’d “regret it” if I reported it to the police, while the office manager just told me not to worry about it and he’d buy me a pizza. I left another to sleep in a tent in the park after I had people high on drugs banging on my door asking me to come out. I’ve been violated, ignored, assaulted and rejected. It’s pushed me to the limit: no one should be put through this.”
Birmingham City Council is one of five local authorities taking part in a government funded pilot to improve standards in exempt accommodation.
On Thursday 21st Oct Crisis, registered provider Prospect Housing and Birmingham City Council will be speaking at a meeting convened by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness to discuss the issues within the exempt sector.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “The exempt accommodation sector is dangerously under-regulated. There are some good providers out there, but so many others are motivated only by money and are able to charge higher rents for essential support they have no intention of providing.
“It is unacceptable that the system lets them get away with it. People trying to end their homelessness, fleeing domestic abuse or tackling complex addiction issues are being forced from one trauma to another – all at huge expense to the public purse. We desperately need stronger regulation to keep the wrong people out of the sector and ensure that quality support and accommodation is provided to people in some of the most vulnerable circumstances.”
Notes to Editors
Crisis submitted a Freedom of Information request in September 2021 to DWP for data from the Single Housing Benefit Extract (SHBE) regarding households supported with Housing Benefit in various forms of temporary, supported and emergency accommodation across GB. The data returned included the number of claimants in specified exempt accommodation by month between April 2016 and May 2021.
Prospect Housing has today published its FOI findings in its report A shared vision for better homes, support and opportunities.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness meeting on exempt accommodation is taking place online on Thursday 21st October 4-5pm. If you wish to attend please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilots were launched in Birmingham, Bristol, Blackburn, Blackpool and Hull last year to improve standards in exempt accommodation.