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Homeless Link Head of Policy Sophie Boobis, provides an update on this proposes legislation:

Over the last few  months the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill has been  working its way through Parliament and we know that many of our members have been watching its progress . This Bill has huge implications for not just those who provide exempt accommodation, but anyone who delivers anything that sits under the definition of specified accommodation, and we wanted to share an update on its progress.

Where did this Bill come from: A brief history

Concerns with the quality of some exempt accommodation have been ongoing for some time. A few years ago we started to see increasing media attention on the problem, and local authorities and providers raising the alarm. Initially this was focussed on areas like Birmingham, who seemed to be having a disproportionate scale of problem. The ongoing and increasing noise caught the attention of government and in 2021 DLUHC funded four supported housing improvement (pilots.

But the increasing noise about exempt accommodation in particular wasn’t going away and in early 2022 the then homelessness minister Eddie Hughes announced a further package of work tackling the “unscrupulous landlords who exploit vulnerable residents by charging high rents for poor-quality accommodation”. This included ly £20million to roll out SHI programme and a commitment to introduce minimum standards of support. In early summer 2022 DLUHC started consultation work on what potential standards and regulation might look like. Homeless Link were part of these discussions, feeding in members insights.

Around the same time the Levelling Up, Communities and Housing Select Committee launched an inquiry into supported exempt accommodation . They published their report in October 2022 and were shocked by their findings stating “There are many good providers, but in the worst instances the system involves the exploitation of vulnerable people who should be receiving support, while unscrupulous providers make excessive profits by capitalising on loopholes.” The Committee came out in support of regulation.

And then by  chance Bob Blackman MP was drawn in the ballot to introduce a Private Members Bill. This is a Bill introduced by an individual MP and not based on planned legislation. Normally these Bills don’t become law but Bob has precedent – the Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced as a PMB from Bob when he was last drawn in the ballot. Working alongside Crisis, Bob decided to focus his Bill on introducing regulation of exempt accommodation and the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill was born.

What’s in the Bill?

The Bill makes provisions to regulate, provide oversight, and give enforcement powers of supported exempt accommodation through two main processes: introduction of national supported housing standards and local authority delivered licensing regulations.

These are potentially huge changes for the sector and at the moment the Bill is very light on detail – it creates the legal ability for the Secretary of State to introduce these things but does not state  what either of them will actually look like. The details of the licensing scheme and the standards are all still to come and as part of the Bill there are some commitments to consultation and engagement with the sector.

Firstly through the establishment of a Supported Housing Advisory Panel which must include representation from registered providers, and someone representing charities providing supporting accommodation. And  secondly through a commitment to consult on the licensing regulations and scheme.

There’s a lot more to be covered in the Bill and Homeless Link hosted a webinar with Bob Blackman MP and Crisis a few weeks ago to explore some of the detail of the Bill and its history. You can watch the webinar here, and see the slides to find out more.

What’s happening?

On the 3rd March the Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. The third reading is the final chance for the Commons to debate the contents of a Bill, and is then given final approval by MPs. The Bill has now gone to the House of Lords for its second reading and any debate on amendments the Lords might want to see. It’s expected back in the House of Commons and to achieve Royal Assent i.e. become law before  Autumn this year.

The Bill has cross-party support and we are not expecting any significant delays to its progress. But the real work starts once the Bill becomes law.

What’s next? 

Although the formal consultation and the set up of the Advisory Panel won’t start until the Bill has become law DLUHC have started doing initial engagement around the types of things they will need to explore in their broader consultations. Homeless Link is currently engaged in this process and are making sure to represent concerns, opportunities and barriers that have been highlighted to us by our members. We are also reiterating to DLUHC the importance of proactive engagement with providers who are not often invited round the table and we are looking for ways that we can support  this.

Over the summer the department is likely to be starting their engagement activity in earnest – we’ll keep you posted of any opportunities to feed in as they arise, and will make sure we are feeding in on behalf of those who aren’t able to.

In the short term we know there are a lot of questions about this Bill and the impact it will have on the sector. We are gathering an FAQ document that will be linked from here shortly, so do check back. The next update will include answers to questions we didn’t get to in the webinar we held a few weeks ago.

If you do have any other questions or want to know more about the Bill then get in touch with our policy team. See details below.

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Sophie Boobis

Head of Policy and Research

Head of Policy and Research