Thousands of vulnerable people facing homelessness look set to benefit from a new £20m initiative designed to help them secure a private rented home.
The Private Rented Sector Access Fund, which was launched yesterday to mark World Homeless Day by Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, is expected to help up to 9,000 people who are or at risk of becoming homeless to secure their own home.
The schemes, which will be either locally-led or an extension of those currently in use, will be tailored to match the needs of each local area’s residents and landlords.
The fund is a key part of the government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy which aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.
This could involve councils providing financial support to help those to access or maintain their tenancies, such as paying deposits for the tenancy or rent payments. Alternatively, some schemes may involve the council managing the property on the landlord’s behalf.
Brokenshire commented: “It is vital we give people facing homelessness a route out of it and a chance to rebuild their lives. The private rented sector has an important role in this.
“This £20m fund will allow councils to put in place vital new schemes so that those at risk will have the support to secure their own tenancy.
“It is just one part of the wide-ranging work we are doing to help tackle all forms of homelessness, including our Rough Sleeping Strategy as we ensure more homes are made available for those in need.”
The new fund’s launch comes as patients, prisoners and jobseekers at risk of homelessness must now be referred to their local housing authority under key legislation. The duty to refer, a core part of the Homelessness Reduction Act, came into force this month.
It places new responsibilities on key public bodies such as prisons, Job centres and NHS Trusts to ensure those at risk get the help they need.
Richard Lambert, CEO of the National Landlords Association, was among those to welcome the government’s attempts to help those in need of a home, but he pointed out that it will not address the cause of the housing crisis.
He said: “More social housing needs to be built for those who are unable to access or maintain a tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).
“The PRS is already picking up the slack by providing homes to people who would be better suited to social housing. Landlords are struggling to cover their overheads as housing benefit rates remain frozen well below the cost of renting.
“We also have concerns regarding the bidding war that councils must undertake to access the funding. It would make more sense for the Government to use their own statistics to allocate funding to where it’s needed most.
“This is just another example of the government making a quick fix to appear as if they’re doing something. There are over 13,000 statutorily homeless households and nearly 80,000 household in temporary accommodation. Supporting 9,000 people doesn’t go far enough.”