Shabana has written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rough Sleeping & Housing on a new exempt accommodation pilot in Birmingham.
For some time, Shabana has been working alongside Birmingham City Council regarding the issue of supported and exempt accommodation.
The growth in the sector in Birmingham has led to concerns regarding an increase in antisocial behaviour, litter and dumping, and inadequate support for supported tenants from providers.
In her letter to Kelly Tolhurst MP, Shabana welcomes the £1.048 million funding from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government for a pilot run by Birmingham City Council.
The pilot will focus on how it can implement measures to drive better quality, enforce standards, scrutinise how welfare funding is spent, and to work with providers in the area to deliver the appropriate accommodation for residents.
Shabana also highlights two suggestions on policy and regulation in light of recent meetings with the Council.
You can her letter in full below.
Letter to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Thank you for your correspondence of 19 October 2020 providing an update on the Government’s work to consider the oversight of supported housing.
For some time, I have been working alongside Birmingham City Council regarding the issue of supported and exempt accommodation. Most recently, I signed a joint letter with Councillor Sharon Thompson and Councillor Brigid Jones to the Secretary of State relaying our concerns about the increase in exempt units and associated problems with the sector in Birmingham.
The letter outlined the key challenges and strategic aims of Birmingham’s current work. It raised concerns with reducing the growth rate in the sector under the current regulatory framework, the relationship between exempt and supported units and Housing Benefit, strengthening the role of the Regulator of Social Housing in the sector, and the introduction of quality standards. I enclose a copy of this letter for your review.
I welcome the £1.048 million funding for Birmingham City Council to focus on how it can implement measures to drive better quality, enforce standards, scrutinise how welfare funding is spent, and to work with providers in the area to deliver the appropriate accommodation for residents.
I would like to highlight two particular suggestions on policy and regulation in light of recent meetings I have had with representatives from Birmingham City Council.
The first is for clear local authority powers to prevent saturation of exempt and supported units, for example local tests on numbers of properties in a given postcode radius, which could be introduced regardless of whether or not providers meet other tests on suitability. A reasonable comparison can be made with Houses of Multiple Occupancy, where Councils across the country are introducing local limits to slow the growth in units, which they are unable to do with supported and exempt accommodation under existing legislation.
The second is for greater clarity on the ‘more than minimal’ requirement for those providing support element in supported and exempt accommodation. The ‘more than minimal’ requirement has been established in case law due to a lack of clear legislation on requirements. The vague definition of support has created a space in the sector for abuse and a race to the bottom on quality standards. A system of quality assurance made clear in legislation would drive out poor practice and alleviate some of the existing problems in the sector.
I would be grateful for your reflection and response on the above points. I will continue to work alongside Birmingham City Council to ensure the success of the pilot, and look forward to any opportunity to work with MHCLG to improve this sector for tenants and residents in the future.
Shabana Mahmood MP