Since attending in January the above event, we submitted a 600-word article setting out our view of the sector and the fast approaching introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act. The transcript and our comments were distributed to all who attended and can be ordered online if you are interested, our article alone, now follows :

Niche PRS – What is the purpose of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA)?

In its initial form, the HRA intended to house all those in need and permanently end homelessness, that ambition eventually had to be drawn back to allow this vital bill to be passed. However, it was clear during the Forum that there are organisations and individuals out there, like ourselves, with the passion to achieve this initial intent and permanently end homelessness in the UK.

Shelter said it best: Homelessness is the want of a Home. We at Niche PRS believe the word ‘Home’ is of critical importance and often overlooked in the fight against homelessness.

It is not the want of a shelter, nor the want of a house, or even the want of a warm, dry space. It is the want of a Home, a place that is warm, safe and affordable, but also a place that fulfils our human need to belong. Without a community to bind and satisfy our social needs, many successful actions taken to provide a roof over someone’s head are often doomed to need repeating time and time again. This need for belonging is especially so for the fastest growing demographic in the UK, the single person household, who Niche PRS have been working with for the last 20 years.

It has been widely reported that homelessness is now most commonly caused by the loss of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). However, what lies behind this statistic? Richard Lambert of the NLA told us that serving a Section 21 Notice is rarely the preferred business choice for a Landlord. There are almost always one or more underlying reasons why an AST is lost, and while supply continues to be severely limited, we must ensure that every person allocated a place to live can maintain that tenancy for as long as desired. If we do not address the underlying reasons for the previous loss of an AST, then the success of this new tenancy is inevitably put in great jeopardy. Given the numbers of people affected, the limited housing supply and limited Local Authority resources we should not be willing to accept any ‘revolving door syndrome’ or ‘return customers’.

This is where long-term supported housing that creates ‘genuine’ communities can be so valuable and is currently not being given the precedence it deserves. We know that few people can climb the ladder to an independent, stable and affordable life, completely on their own, and we also know that every placement must achieve exceptional value for money. Therefore we need to make changes that address underlying needs at the same time as putting a roof over someone’s head and create a community for that person to join. Such an approach stacks the odds in favour of a longterm sustainable positive outcome and also will be much more cost-effective for the public purse.

What if we as a country stop measuring this value by its financial costs but rather by the permanence of the intervention?

If every person that receives help is supported not just on the first step of their journey into a house, but all the way back into an affordable long-term home, then they should never be at risk or in need of housing support again. That is how we at Niche PRS operate and how we believe homelessness in the UK can be ended.

We should no longer accept a ’two steps forward, one step back’ inevitability. We in the industry must offer the support that makes this a ‘two step forward, one step forward’ journey.

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