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Research commissioned by the Housing First Europe Hub (2019) suggested “strong evidence” of HF offering “an effective solution to homelessness among people with high and complex needs”. This prompted a growing interest in HF. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that, as at June 2020, thirteen nations had national HF programmes.

In the UK, housing is a devolved issue and the four UK Governments have each piloted and evaluated HF approaches. This briefing describes policy across the UK, evaluations of its effectiveness, and academic and third-sector reports on the utility of HF.


Autumn Budget 2017 committed £28 million to support three Government-sponsored pilots in the West Midlands, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester. Support for HF pilots was confirmed in the Conservative’s 2019 Election Manifesto.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published an interim evaluation of the three pilots in 2020. The evaluation found “some positive stories” regarding service user outcomes but challenges were experienced in acquiring properties and recruiting skilled staff.  It recommended the Ministry seek routes for sustainability and introduce a longer lead time for confirmation of funding. The Ministry said the report would “inform next steps”.

Future editions of the MHCLG evaluation will include a quantitative evaluation of the programme and a cost benefit analysis for England.

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic the Government launched the ‘Everyone In’ initiative thorough which local authorities were charged with getting all rough sleepers into self-contained accommodation. Bodies assisting rough sleepers have drawn parallels with aspects of the Housing First model.  The Local Government Association (LGA) commented “The success of Everyone In demonstrates that, given the mandate and funding, councils, working with their partners, have the means to end the vast majority of rough sleeping.”


In Ending homelessness together (2018) the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities confirmed they would “ensure a national shift towards rapid rehousing by default, including Housing First”. From 2018 to 2022, the Scottish Government, together with Social Bite and Merchant’s House, intends to secure up to 830 HF placements. Homelessness Network Scotland also published a draft HF development framework for consultation in November 2020.


In February 2018, the Welsh Government said it had funded ten HF pilot projects, including in Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Conwy and Swansea. Support for HF was re-confirmed in the Welsh Government’s 2019 Homelessness strategy. The Homelessness Action Group, established by the Welsh Government, has recommended that HF be adopted as part of the default approach taken to support people who are at risk of homelessness or rough sleeping—the Welsh Government accepted this in principle in 2019.

Northern Ireland (NI)

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Homelessness Strategy for Northern Ireland 2017-22 intends to build on the “HF NI pathway model”. A HF mode was piloted by the charity Depaul in Belfast in 2014, with support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive; an evaluation followed in 2016.

In June 2020, the charity argued that the “rollout of the HF model should be costed, funded and implemented throughout Northern Ireland” as part of the Coronavirus exit strategy.

Debates and evaluations of HF

Currently, most of the evidence on HF is international and it is uncertain how far projects trialled elsewhere are applicable to the UK. This is due to the differing nature of housing support systems and the varying nature of HF schemes applied.

Section 6 of this briefing summarises and signposts material on HF. This includes discussion of its use in Finland, which is often cited as an example of HF’s effectiveness, the impact of HF schemes on housing retention, health, crime and antisocial behaviour and substance misuse, its cost effectiveness, and sources of further research.

Other homelessness strategies in the UK

Proponents of HF stress that it is only one of several strategies required to tackle homelessness.  The Commons Library has published the following related briefings:

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