The need to provide affordable, practical housing solutions is an ongoing challenge for councils, housing associations, and central government. With the additional pressure from those seeking asylum in the UK, the provision of these properties is, more than ever, a fine balance of managing limited budgets and high expectations.
Once an asylum seeker is issued with a biometric residence permit, they have 28 days to move on from asylum accommodation before becoming part of the local authority’s responsibility to house the homeless, increasing the pressure on an already struggling system
There are no large-scale, sustainable moving on solutions. Some areas have a much higher proportion of asylum placements than others. This is particularly the case in the north. Demand for single occupancy flats is high, as it is for accommodation suitable for larger, sometimes multi-generational families. Night shelters are being re-opened, in some cases for the first time in many years. Temporary housing is at capacity, so chain hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation are often the only option. This type of accommodation is clearly not a viable long-term sustainable solution for people in dire need.
Of course, housing asylum seekers should not just be the local authorities’ problem. It is an international challenge, that needs to be tackled on first a global, then a national scale.
A broken benefits process
At a local level, housing benefit has not kept pace with commercial rents, which in many areas now exceed the LHA (Local Housing Allowance) rate. This has exacerbated the problem.
The LHA rate is due to be increased in April this year, having been frozen since 2020. Hopefully this will see an increase in the number of private renting households on eligible benefits having their full rent covered. Some argue that there might be a cost benefit to the local authority topping up the LHA rate. It’s certainly time to be thinking outside the box.
The problem is both significant and challenging, but it is important to understand its nature, extent and scale before any improvements can be made in any given region. Every local authority should have a long term housing strategy, subject to regular assessment to ensure it is still fit for purpose. A review can start with an analysis of the process of applications for housing. How efficient is it really? Where are the hold-ups? How can these be reduced? What partnerships can be developed with RSLs and private landlords and how can existing relationships be leveraged?
Our team has held various roles in housing, giving us a unique perspective and ability to respond to governance and assurance challenges and recommend effective healthcheck and review strategies. Talk to us to find out how we can help you address your housing challenges.