Supported housing – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Committee of Public Accounts

Related inquiry: Supported housing

Date Published: 10 November 2023

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Supported housing provides housing with support to people with additional needs, including care leavers, people with disabilities, mental health issues and addiction. The sector is riddled with long-standing challenges and government’s actions to improve matters falls woefully short.

Many vulnerable people are let down by the unscrupulous providers who rent out poor-quality housing with limited support. Local authorities are charged more than housing benefit will cover in many cases and have to fill the shortfall out of their budgets and taxpayers are let down because of the weaknesses in tackling housing benefit fraud in the sector.

Government is hampered by the lack of data it holds, despite the issues within the sector being known about for a long time. Regulatory oversight of supported housing, and its knowledge of the market for it, both fall short. This is especially troubling given supported housing is intended to help some of the most vulnerable in society. Patchy oversight and regulation give unscrupulous providers the opportunity to rent out poor-quality housing with limited support, while profiting at the taxpayers’ expense. This is not a problem unique to the public sector. Some private sector supported housing complexes are also very poorly regulated, leading to potential exploitation of private sector residents by unscrupulous landlords and/or management companies.

Limited data means that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) do not understand the nature or the scale of the problems with supported housing and therefore cannot effectively address them. DLUHC does not know how much supported housing there is, or how much is needed to meet people’s needs, though it acknowledges that there is not enough. The Affordable Homes Programme aims to help increase the amount of supported housing but DLUHC’s most recent data on the 2021–26 iteration of the Programme reports that it is only forecast to deliver 5% supported housing against its initial target of 10% within the affordable homes programme (the 10% target is equivalent to 15,700 to 16,500 new supported housing units)

Local authorities have limited resources and are likely to need more support from central government to deal with the problems in the sector and improve the quality of supported housing. Some local authorities lack the capacity and resources to consistently identify and challenge fraud in Housing Benefit for supported housing. Housing Benefit rules also mean that some local authorities have shortfalls in their funding for supported housing, so councils are having to bridge the shortfall out of their own budgets. The scale of this ‘subsidy loss’ varies locally, but is increasing overall with local authorities experiencing subsidy loss of £108 million in 2021–22. We welcome the Royal Assent of the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill, but reform is long overdue, and the Act mainly focuses on the subset of exempt, short-term accommodation rather than all supported housing. It is currently unknown how much extra burden will be placed on local authorities by the Act.