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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 by the RSH and Government

The Government published Supported housing: national statement of expectations in October 2020 and launched four pilots to test innovative approaches to provision and drive up standards. The pilots were extended for a further six months in March 2021.

The RSH is implementing more rigorous oversight of the sector, resulting in more non-compliant regulatory judgements.

Joint work is being carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the oversight of supported housing.

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