Protecting rough sleepers and renters: Interim Report Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Protecting rough sleepers

1.This is a golden opportunity to end rough sleeping in England once and for all. The Government’s taskforce must estimate the cost of a housing-led solution with appropriate wrap-around support, using the expertise of charitable organisations and local councils. We received evidence that this is likely to be £100 million a year at a minimum. The Government must provide this as a dedicated funding stream to councils to ensure these people are accommodated safely and securely. As part of this, the Government should publish the results of the Housing First pilots and accelerate delivery of Housing First across the country, to help increase the availability of wrap-around support services alongside good-quality accommodation. (Paragraph 9)

2.We appeal on humanitarian grounds for the Government to improve its support to councils for people with no recourse to public funds during this crisis, or hundreds will return to the streets with potentially disastrous consequences. We recommend that the Government should guarantee it will compensate councils for provision offered to rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds as a result of the current crisis. While the Government believes the legal position is clear, local authorities do not. In addition, we ask the Government to urgently publish guidance on councils’ use of discretion in these circumstances and clarify what people can or cannot claim when they have no recourse to public funds. (Paragraph 13)

3.The Government must ensure that rough sleepers do not end up back on the streets due to a lack of suitable housing. We recommend the Government act to boost the immediate availability of appropriate supported housing, by providing targeted grant funding for councils and housing associations to acquire properties. The Department should work with the Local Government Association and the National Housing Federation and others on the design of this scheme, including how to target it at both existing properties and those close to completion which may no longer be in demand, using the National Clearing House Scheme from 2008 as a starting point. We also ask the Government to remove restrictions on Right to Buy receipts, so councils can use different pots of funding together and use 100% of sales to fund these acquisitions, as well as extending the deadline for their use from three years to five years. (Paragraph 17)

Protecting renters

4.Unless the Government amends existing housing legislation, its plans to introduce a pre-action protocol to the private rented sector will be toothless and will fail to prevent a cliff edge of evictions once the moratorium on possession cases ends. We recommend the Government bring forward legislation to amend the 1985 and 1988 Housing Acts to allow judges to use discretion where a tenant is in rent arrears due to the coronavirus crisis for the next 12 months at a minimum. Discretion could include consideration of whether a pre-action protocol has been complied with. These amendments should be delivered through a short Bill—such as we have proposed—which must be introduced to Parliament as soon as possible. (Paragraph 24)

5.The Government must accelerate its plans to introduce the Renters’ Reform Bill to Parliament and abolish ‘no fault evictions’ under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 within the next 12 months. By amending the Act to allow judges to exercise discretion, the Government will have time to deliver a Bill which provides greater security for tenants. (Paragraph 28)

6.The Government must ensure that the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate is set at a level that reflects real market rents and ensures those in need are able to afford properties in their areas. We call on the Government to guarantee that the LHA rate will be maintained at the 30th percentile long-term. We also ask the Government to conduct work on what the impact on renters and the wider rental market would be of raising LHA rates further. (Paragraph 31)


7.The recommendations we make in this report require urgent consideration and action. We therefore ask the Government to respond to our recommendations by 12 June, rather than the usual two months. We will return to these crucial issues in the coming weeks and months. (Paragraph 37)

Published: 22 May 2020