Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Professor Tony Warnes and Dr Maureen Crane (L 55)

1. This evidence refers to the proposals in The Localism Bill Part 6, Chapter 1, Section 124, regarding local authorities’ duties to homeless persons, and specifically to the proposal that allocations of suitable private-rented tenancies to unintentionally homeless people or families will discharge the local authority duty to secure accommodation.

2. The presented evidence is from recent research (the FOR-HOME Study) into the outcomes of the resettlement during 2007-09 of 400 single homeless people in London, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield by six service provider organisations (Broadway, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach in London; Framework in Nottinghamshire; and St Anne’s Community Services in Yorkshire). Specifically we present data on the outcomes of the resettlements over 18 months broken down by housing tenure. Details of the source study are described in the Appendix.

Basic housing outcomes

3. Resettlement was successful for most people over the first 15/18 months – 73% of the respondents remained housed in the original resettlement accommodation, and 8% moved to another tenancy. Among those whose tenancies ended, 3% were staying temporarily with relatives or friends, and just 5% were known to have returned to hostels or the streets – a very low rate of returns to homelessness. Of the remainder, some moved into care institutions and prisons, and four died. We lost touch with 6%.

4. The respondents who moved to private-rented accommodation were the least likely to have remained housed – only 47% were in the original accommodation at 15/18 months, 22% had moved to a new tenancy, and 27% were without a tenancy (12% had returned to hostels or the streets) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Housing arrangements at 15/18 months by housing tenure

5. It is clear that resettlements into private-rented tenancies generate more difficulties for the occupier and are harder to sustain than resettlements into social housing. Among the private renters who were closely managed through Broadway’s ‘Real Lettings’ scheme, however, a significantly higher retention rate was achieved – 72% were still in the resettlement tenancy at 15/18 months, 22% were without a tenancy, and 6% had left the tenancy and their whereabouts was unknown. In comparison, among the other private-rented tenants, only 33% were in the original tenancy, 25% had moved elsewhere, and 42% were without a tenancy or their whereabouts was unknown.

Housing satisfaction and settledness

6. The FOR-HOME study generated several indicators of outcomes, including satisfaction with the property and settledness, and all are consistent with the main message, that resettlements into the private-rented sector (PRS) associated with more negative outcomes than those into social housing.

7. The private renters were more likely than those who moved to social housing to experience problems with the condition of the accommodation. At 15/18 months, 75% of private-rented sector tenants reported problems, including heating failures (25%), dampness and mould (25%), and plumbing problems (25%). Whereas social housing providers have systems in place for tenants to request repair work and to make complaints, many private renters experienced difficulties in persuading the landlord to do repairs and were worried about pressing too hard or seeking further advice for fear of jeopardising their tenancy. Many became resigned to the situation.

8. The private renters were also less likely to feel settled in their accommodation and to think of it as ‘home’. This was linked to poor physical condition and to deficient space and amenities. Compared to the respondents in social housing, the private renters were more likely to be in a ‘bedsit’ or a studio flat with a combined bedroom / living room, and many were concerned about the lack of privacy. Many also were unhappy about the insecurity of short-term tenancies, which they said meant that they could not regard the accommodation as ‘theirs’.

Increases in debt

9. A pervasive and unsettling problem for the respondents was increasing debt over time. At the time of resettlement, 45% of the entire sample reported debts, and by 15/18 months, 67% had debts, including 25% who owed £1,000 or more. Young people and those in the private-rented sector were the most likely to have accrued debts (Figure 2). A substantial element of the debt was rent arrears. After 18 months, the average amount of rent arrears among private-rented tenants was nearly three times that of tenants in either local authority or social-housing tenancies (Figure 3). During the study, 16 per cent of private-rented tenants but 2 per cent of social-housing tenants were evicted for rent arrears.

Figure 2 The prevalence of debts over time by housing tenure

Figure 3 Average rent arrears at 6 and 15/18 months (£)

10. Part of the reason for the high level of rent arrears among the private renters was that some had the Local Housing Allowance paid directly to them and they failed to pay the landlord. Some simply did not understand the system, and some spent all or part of the allowance on other things. The average weekly rents of private-rented tenancies were two-three times higher than those of local authority and housing association tenancies. Some private renters tried ‘to better themselves’ by entering full-time education or employment but then found that their income was insufficient to meet their outgoings, and some ran into difficulties when their job ended because of delays in reinstating social security benefits.

Receipt of tenancy support

11. One-half of the respondents received help from tenancy-support workers at some time after being resettled, and after 15/18 months one-quarter still received this help. Housing association tenants were the most likely to have received the support and private-rented tenants the least likely (Figure 4). Just 27% of private renters had a tenancy-support worker when they first moved, compared to 42% of local-authority tenants and 61% of housing-association tenants.

Figure 4 Contact with a tenancy-support worker by housing tenure

12. Given that private-rented tenancies generate more difficulties than resettlements into other tenures, it is clearly perverse that the former were the least likely to receive tenancy support during the early months of resettlement.

13. Other unfortunate interaction effects were found. Very young adults were the least likely to have had previous experience of living independently but among the least likely to receive tenancy support.

14. The FOR-HOME data document many benefits of tenancy support, including help with social security benefit claims, sorting out rent and utility payments and arrears, dealing with problems with the accommodation, and emotional support. There was also a positive association with the continuation of treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems.

Implications and recommendations

15. Well-established trends in housing investment and management make it near inevitable that the resettlement of homeless people (and families) will require growing reliance on private-rented accommodation. It should be recognised, however, that unless such resettlements are more closely managed and supported than has generally been the case, they will lead to more rent arrears, evictions and returns to homelessness. Without careful preparation and continuing support, resettlement into the private-rented could become counter-productive in both welfare and public expenditure terms.

16. There is limited evidence from Broadway’s Real Lettings scheme that intensively managed resettlement into the private-rented sector can have good outcomes and therefore deserves close scrutiny. One element of the relative success may be that the tenants had access to advice and support when problems occurred.

17. The service provider organisations and local authorities should pay more attention to support needs in the allocation of tenancy support. In particular, the current bias not to allocate to newly-resettled private-rented tenants should be eliminated.

Further information

18. We would be pleased to supply more detailed tables on request. The full report of the study, Moves to Independent Living: Single Homeless People’s Experiences and Outcomes of Resettlement can be provided on pdf.

Professor Tony Warnes and Dr Maureen Crane, University of Sheffield

January 2011


The FOR-HOME Study

The FOR-HOME study collected information about the experiences of 400 single homeless people who were resettled from hostels and other temporary accommodation into independent tenancies in London, Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield during 2007-09. Its aims were to collect information over 18 months about the experiences of homeless people who are rehoused and the factors that influence the outcomes, and to produce policy and practice recommendations.

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and designed in collaboration with six homelessness service provider organisations: Broadway, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach in London; Framework in Notitnghamshire; and St Anne’s Community Services in Yorkshire. Each of the six organisations nominated a Link Worker to assist with recruitment and the tracking of respondents.

Data collection was through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews just before the repsondents moved, after six months and after 18 months. Delays in recruitment meant that 91 of the 400 respondents were interviewed for a third time at 15 rather than 18 months. The questions asked derived from a theoretical model that resettlement outcomes are influenced by: (i) the resettled person’s biographical and current attributes; (ii) the help and support received before and after resettlement; (iii) the condition and amenities of the accommodation; and (iv) the respondents’ experiences post-resettlement.

The three interviews covered housing, homelessness and employment histories; finances and debts; engagement in work, training and other activities; health and addiction problems; family and social networks; the characteristics of the resettlement accommodation and housing satisfaction; help and support pre- and post-resettlement; experiences in the new accommodation; morale and settledness; and future plans and aspirations. At each interview, the respondents also completed a ‘Right Move’ Scale which has eight questions about housing satisfaction, settledness, and how they were coping. With the respondent’s consent, a self-completion questionnaire was also completed by his/her resettlement worker about the help given to prepare for resettlement, to find a housing vacancy, and to move.

A diligent tracking system was designed and implemented to minimise attrition, and comprehensive tracking was undertaken at 12 months to establish the respondents’ whereabouts. Contact was maintained over 15/18 months with a high percentage of the respondents and attrition rates were low. Final interviews were achieved with 77 per cent of the original sample, and another 3 per cent that had left their tenancies were interviewed. Contact was lost with just 8 per cent.