Now more than ever, we must fund private rented access projects
It may not be the ideal solution for everyone, and needs urgent reform, but our experience shows that with the right support the private rented sector can provide long-term, sustainable housing for vulnerable and homeless people.
Such support can be provided in a highly effective way by private rented sector access projects. These projects operate using many different models, but what they have in common is that they support people who are homeless or vulnerably housed to find, create and sustain tenancies in the private rented sector.
Since 2010 Crisis has been funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to deliver programmes that have funded and supported more than 150 private rented access projects across England. As this funding ends in March 2016 we are faced with and increasing need for these projects to continue to deliver, as well as their financial situation and funding opportunities.
Our recently published report ‘The cost of access – sustaining and supporting private renting projects’ looks at these issues, considers possible funding and partnership options for projects and has some wider recommendations for the long term future of these vital services.
The private rented sector is increasingly being relied upon to house people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. More and more local authorities are reliant on the private rented sector either as temporary accommodation or as an offer of settled housing for homeless households who are owed the main housing duty.
In addition, government proposals to extend the Right to Buy policy to housing association tenants on the same terms as council tenants, the forced sale of high value council homes and the redefinition of “affordable housing” to include starter homes will undoubtedly lead to further decline in the number of social rented homes.
Most relevant of all perhaps is the proposed ending of lifetime tenancies within social housing which will see social and private rented housing become more and more similar. All of these factors will see an increasing reliance on the private rented sector to accommodate those in the greatest housing need, particularly single homeless people. And in this context the work of private rented sector access projects will continue to grow in importance.
The projects currently funded through Crisis have proven their value. Since 2010 over 10,000 people have been assisted into tenancies, and the sustainment rate for tenancies that have successfully reached the six month point has consistently exceeded the 90% mark. 37 of the funded projects completed a cost benefit analysis created by the University of York that showed that between October and December 2014 their housing and support interventions saved the public purse nearly £6m.
Despite this proven value, projects are facing an uncertain future. Though there have been some successes and a huge amount of innovation, the majority of funding received by projects is on a year by year basis, and often confirmed very late in the day, which does not provide much security or stability for project management or planning.
It is important that local and national government help to ensure that these projects are able to access appropriate funding. Whilst retaining the Preventing Homelessness Grant is a success and may provide some local funds to support this work, the ever increasing demand local authorities are under, does mean central government have a role to play in providing some central funding and support.
A secure and consistent element of grant funding is vital to ensuring private rented sector access projects are able to be flexible and creative in attracting additional funding and income, while continuing to meet the increasing need for their services.