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Bob Blackman drew second place in the Private Members’ Bill Ballot and introduced the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17 on 29 June 2016 (Bill 7 of 2016-17).  The debate on Second Reading took place on 28 October 2016. The Bill extends to England and Wales but will only apply in England.  The Bill and its Explanatory Notes are on the Parliament website.

Full background on the Bill and its provisions as originally presented can be found in Library Briefing Paper 7736, Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17. The main thrust of the Bill is to refocus English local authorities on efforts to prevent homelessness. The Government published a series of policy fact sheets on each clause of the Bill by way of background as it progressed through Public Bill Committee.

The Bill has attracted Government and cross-Party support. It was considered during seven sittings of the Public Bill Committee between 23 November 2016 and 18 January 2017. The Report Stage and Third Reading took place on 27 January 2017.  The Bill’s debate on Second Reading in the House of Lords took place on 24 February 2017. The Bill was committed to a Committee of the whole House but no amendments were set down and the Order of Commitment was discharged on 10 March 2017. The Bill received its Third Reading in the House of Lords with no debate on 23 March 2017.

Amendments made

Government amendments to clauses 1 and 11 were agreed in Public Bill Committee. The Government committed to bringing forward amendments to clauses 4 and 7 on Report. Further Government amendments to clauses 5, 6, 9 and 12 were agreed on Report. An amended version of the Bill has been published:HL Bill 96 of 2016-17

What will the Bill do?

The Bill is seeking to amend Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. Its measures include:

  • An extension of the period during which an authority should treat someone as threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days.
  • Clarification of the action an authority should take when someone applies for assistance having been served with a valid section 21 notice of intention to seek possession from an assured shorthold tenancy.
  • A new duty to prevent homelessness for all eligible applicants threatened with homelessness.
  • A new duty to relieve homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants.
  • A new duty on public services to notify a local authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Funding the new duties and a commitment to review

The Bill creates new duties for English local authorities and a good deal of debate in Public Bill Committee and on Report focused on how much these duties would cost, and whether they would be fully funded by the Government. On 17 January 2017 the Minister, Marcus Jones, announced that funding of £48 million would be provided to meet the additional costs for local authorities. Authorities’ representative bodies have given this announcement a ‘cautious’ welcome but have asked the Government to commit to a review of the Bill’s impact after two years “to ensure that authorities are fully equipped and funded to deliver the Bill’s ambitions.”

The Government amendments agreed on Report will result in additional costs for local authorities. The Minister announced that the estimated impact would be £13 million, bringing total Government new burdens funding for authorities up to £61 million. The Minister also committed to review the implementation of the legislation, “including its resourcing and how it is working in practice, concluding no later than two years after the commencement of its substantive clauses.”

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