In England and Wales, the number of homeless individuals is growing, while social housing continues to be in short supply.
In the past a large proportion of people at risk of homelessness would have had their housing needs met by councils or housing associations. However, due to the issues impacting the supply of housing, the private rented sector is increasingly important to fulfil the housing needs of those who would have otherwise relied on the social sector. Both universal credit payment issues, and a lack of awareness about how to let to vulnerable tenants, may prevent the Private Rented Sector (PRS) from playing a bigger role in providing solutions to the ongoing homelessness crisis.
The NRLA are calling for:
1 Increased LHA rates – The Government permanently committing to aligning LHA rates to the 30th percentile of market rents at minimum, rather than as a short-term response to the coronavirus crisis. We are further calling for the Government to realign rents to the median market rents, the 50th percentile.
2 Universal Credit Payments - An end to the five-week wait for Universal Credit at the beginning of a claim, with the advance payment currently made as a loan converted to a grant, so tenants do not automatically fall into debt at the outset. We are also calling for the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit to be retained.
3 Long-lease schemes - The Government should work with local authorities to offer a minimum package of support for both landlords and tenants, to mitigate the higher risks which landlords perceive in letting to those at risk of homelessness. The NRLA suggest two leasing models, one fully managed, the other where the landlord retains overall responsibility for the let, with rent levels reflecting the burden of risk.
What we’re doing
The private rented sector provides much needed homes for all tenants including those who are vulnerable and on low incomes. Landlords make a significant contribution to the provision of safe, legal and secure homes. In recent years, initiatives have been developed to make greater use of the PRS in preventing homelessness and improving access.
We continue to work with stakeholders across the housing sector, landlords and the government to develop our understanding of what would encourage more landlords to consider these lets. The NRLA wants to make these schemes easier to access for the landlords that wish to be involved.
One of our partnerships has led to the first research of its kind; exploring how private landlords decide whether to let to tenants in receipt of Universal Credit. The NRLA worked with the Centre for Homelessness Impact and the Behavioural Insights Team, who conducted major new research on opening up the private rented sector for people receiving benefits.
One of the key findings of the research was that rent guarantees and upfront cash payments from local authorities are the most effective tools at increasing the likelihood of a landlords accepting a tenant receiving universal credit at below-market rent.
You can find more out about the research and findings here.
In addition, the NRLA advocates for packages of support to help landlords to let to those who are at risk of or have experienced homelessness. We have influenced the Department for Work and Pensions for a number of improvements for landlords on the implementation of Universal Credit. This includes the introduction of an online application for direct payment replacing the UC47 form, improved official guidance for landlords and support for landlords struggling to engage with tenants.
We’re campaigning for the Government to provide a financial package to support tenants and landlords facing arrears due to the impact of Covid-19. Find out more here.
A landmark study launched today explores ways to increase the willingness of landlords to rent to people receiving housing benefits.
Why are we campaigning on this issue?
The introduction of Universal Credit and its transformation of the benefits system, alongside a lack of awareness about schemes to house homeless people, can deter landlords from renting out to vulnerable tenants.
At the same time, local authorities have been increasingly reliant on temporary accommodation to support those in need of a home, with a lack of socially rented housing available.
The NRLA believe there is a role for the private rented sector in offering more long-term housing for those at risk of homelessness. Many local authorities already run private sector leasing schemes through which private landlords can lease their properties to the council. Yet many landlords remain unaware of these schemes or unsure about their advantages
We want to make it as easy as possible for landlords to use these schemes if they wish to. There are many landlords out there who want to provide housing to vulnerable groups but lack the knowledge about how to or their benefits.