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Housing policy is a devolved matter. This briefing focuses on the situation in England but provides links to relevant policy information in the devolved administrations.

The private rented sector (PRS) is now the UK’s second largest tenure after owner occupation. The Localism Act 2011 gave English local authorities the power to discharge their duty towards statutorily homeless households in the PRS, previously households had been able to refuse this as a rehousing option.  

In the context of increasing levels of statutory homelessness and rough sleeping in England, the PRS has assumed more importance as a means of securing accommodation for homeless households (discharge of duty) and as temporary accommodation for households waiting for a final offer of suitable accommodation. However, the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy was cited as the cause of homelessness in 17,900 cases (31% of the total) accepted by English local authorities in 2015/16.

There is evidence to suggest that homeless and vulnerable people face particular barriers to accessing and retaining accommodation in the PRS. The key issues include: affordability; landlords’ reluctance to rent to Housing Benefit recipients; lack of security of tenure; poor housing quality; and lack of support for vulnerable people.

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