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What is supported exempt accommodation?

Exempt accommodation is supported housing which is exempt from certain Housing Benefit provisions.

It is a sector which houses more marginalised groups with support needs, such as recent prison leavers; care leavers; those fleeing domestic violence; and homeless people with substance dependence or mental health issues.

Data gathered by Crisis, the national homelessness charity, showed “153,701 households in Great Britain were housed in exempt accommodation as of May 2021” representing a 62% increase since 2016.

Is it regulated?

There is no single regulator of supported housing. Where the accommodation is provided by a housing association, in most cases the landlord will be registered with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) and will be subject to the associated regulatory framework. The regulator adopts a risk-based approach to regulation with a focus on providers with more than 1,000 units.

A notable development has been the growth of lease-based providers of supported exempt accommodation. Under this model the association leases accommodation with day-to-day management supplied through contracts with managing agents. Variations on this basic model may apply, eg with support provided by the housing association or through a contract with a third-party. The lease-based model is subject to the same regulatory requirements as other registered providers.

What’s the problem?

Questions have arisen around the condition of some lease-based provision, standards of management, and levels of support supplied to vulnerable residents.

There’s a view that the growth of exempt provision “is associated with investors looking to maximise returns using the higher rents permitted by the exempt Housing Benefit provisions.”

Commentators question the adequacy of the regulatory regime and the lack of a dedicated funding stream to cover the cost of support in non-commissioned provision, ie support provided to residents which is not commissioned by a local authority.

Action to address the issues

  • On 20 October 2020, the Government published Supported housing: national statement of expectations, which set out a vision for the planning, commissioning and delivery of supported housing for the first time.
  • Also in October 2020, five pilots were established in Birmingham; Blackburn; Blackpool; Bristol; and Hull to improve quality; enforcement; oversight; and value for money in the sector. They were expected to focus on short-term, non-commissioned exempt supported accommodation. An independent evaluation of the pilots was published on 7 April 2022.
  • On 17 March 2022, the Minister, Eddie Hughes, issued a written statement setting out Government plans for supported exempt housing. The plans include the introduction of minimum standards of support; changes to Housing Benefit regulations to clarify the definition of care, support and supervision; new powers for local authorities to better manage their local supported housing market and “ensure rogue landlords cannot exploit the system”. Legisation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. There will also be a £20 million upported housing improvement programme.
  • The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) is implementing more rigorous oversight of the sector, resulting in more non-compliant regulatory judgements.
  • The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee launched an inquiry into exempt accommodation on 7 December 2021. The inquiry is ongoing.

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