Despite the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act earlier this month, social housing lawyer Farzana Chowdhury of London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen says that without the funds and more social housing to accompany it, the legislation will have little impact.
The aim of the Act is that early intervention by local authorities and better support will avert homelessness rather than authorities only intervening when someone is about to be evicted or is already street homeless. There is now the duty to provide support to applicants regardless of whether they are in priority need or intentionally homeless. The Act puts the onus on local authorities to assess applicants and develop a personalised housing plan to get them into secure accommodation quicker.
Previously, people only received help if they were in priority need, i.e., with children, pregnant, disabled, or with other vulnerability. If they fell into this category but were intentionally homeless, they would only receive short-term assistance to find their own accommodation. Although there was a duty to provide advice and assistance, this was very limited and often just amounted to giving someone a list of local letting agents.
“The intention is clearly positive, but the problem remains that local authorities simply don’t have the funding and resources in place to enforce this properly.” Farzana says. “Ultimately, unless the Government commits to creating more social housing, the Act will not help long-term. People will still find themselves in a cycle of short term accommodation followed by imminent homelessness and then back in short-term accommodation.”
Farzana also says that the wider issue prevails of the poor standard of private rented accommodation – often in disrepair, plus the expense compared to social housing. Local authorities must fork out far higher housing benefit for private rented accommodation, around £1200 – £1800 per calendar month, as opposed to £500-£650 for social housing.
“Tenants often face financial difficulties trying to afford the higher rents, particularly when they are affected by issues such as the benefit cap or maximum local housing allowance.
“Because private tenancies are in short supply, local authorities will often look at placing applicants outside of borough to be able to house them. Families frequently have to move from one end of London to another, impacting children’s education and parents’ ability to get to work.
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Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen, recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by Solicitors Journal.
- For 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- In 2016, the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.