Local councils are to be allowed to pay a tenant’s deposit or rent and contact agents to procure rental properties as part of a new Government fund aimed at reducing homelessness.
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire has unveiled a £20m Private Rented Sector Access Fund which will allow councils to bid for support that will go towards schemes that help tenants who have been made homeless or are at risk.
The Government believes this will support up to 9,000 people at risk of homelessness.
It forms part of a new duty to refer – introduced this month – on public authorities to report those at risk of homelessness so local authorities can intervene at an early stage.
The Government’s bidding prospectus says schemes could provide:
- Guaranteed rent or deposit scheme/bonds: Providing full or proportion of tenancy deposit or rent payments, or some form of guarantee to landlords.
- Procurement: Contacting landlords and agents to seek out private rented properties and tenancies.
- Property management: Managing the property on the landlord’s behalf for the purposes of placing a person/household into private rented sector accommodation.
- Mediation support and training between landlord and tenant.
- The minimum tenancy or existing tenancy supported by the schemes will be a period of 12 months.
Bidding for the schemes is open to all local councils.
The competition for bids runs for six weeks from yesterday.
Up to £5m in funding is available for bids for the 2018/2019 financial year with £15m available for the 2019/2020 financial year.
Brokenshire said: “It is vital we give people facing homelessness a route out of it and a chance to rebuild their lives. The private rented sector has an important role in this.
“This £20m fund will allow councils to put in place vital new schemes so that those at risk will have the support to secure their own tenancy.
“It is just one part of the wide-ranging work we are doing to help tackle all forms of homelessness, including our Rough Sleeping Strategy, as we ensure more homes are made available for those in need.”
Landlords welcomed the assistance but were unsure how this would help alleviate the housing crisis.
Richard Lambert, chief executive of the National Landlords Association, said: “While we welcome any assistance the Government can provide those in need of a home, this hardly addresses the cause of the housing crisis.
“More social housing needs to be built for those who are unable to access or maintain a tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).
“The PRS is already picking up the slack by providing homes to people who would be better suited to social housing. Landlords are struggling to cover their overheads as housing benefit rates remain frozen well below the cost of renting.
“We also have concerns regarding the bidding war that councils must undertake to access the funding. It would make more sense for the Government to use their own statistics to allocate funding to where it’s needed most.
“This is just another example of the Government making a quick fix to appear as if they’re doing something. There are over 13,000 statutorily homeless households and nearly 80,000 household in temporary accommodation. Supporting 9,000 people doesn’t go far enough.”