Following this week’s NHF driven coverage across the BBC, awareness will have been raised amongst the wider public about the real and present threat to the future of supported housing the sector has been grappling with following the Autumn Statement.
Some good news for providers of supported housing came at the end of January, when the Government announced that it would be excluded from the 1% rent cut for 2016/17.
Since then we’ve had lots of questions about the definition of supported housing. This will include all supported housing as defined under the HCA rent standard guidance which includes;
- domestic violence refuges and other specialist accommodation based support for domestic violence victims,
- hostels and other accommodation for the homeless,
- sheltered accommodation for older people,
- supported accommodation for young people,
- extra care housing,
- accommodation for people with mental health or drug/alcohol problems,
- accommodation for people with disabilities and
- accommodation for ex-offenders and people at risk of offending.
Increases in the level of rent for supported housing will be limited to the previous settlement of CPI +1%.
Specialised supported housing, as defined in the rent standard guidance, continues to be outside the scope of formula rents and so exempt from the rent reduction for the full four year period.
The Government also announced that during the exception period the intention is that providers will be able to set new rents at 10% above the 2015/16 formula rate uprated by CPI+1%. This has been presented as something new but is in fact equivalent to the original 10% tolerance for supported housing allowed in the rent setting guidance and will have already been included by most RPs in their rent projections.
Whilst deferring the rent cut will delay financial viability issues, the key matter looming on the horizon is the applicability of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap for social housing. As announced in the Autumn Spending Review, under the changes single people under 35 will only be entitled to the rate of housing benefit for a single room in a shared house. If this applied to supported housing this will have a much more significant and probably fatal impact on the majority of supported housing services with specialist supported housing hit probably the hardest.
Though many in the sector believe that the Government review of benefits for supported housing is unlikely to recommend upholding the restriction due to the impact on services, this will nevertheless mean forgoing a substantial saving. Could the answer be perhaps a Supported Housing LHA possibly set at the LHA + £50 per week?
Whatever the outcome the current situation leaves the future for supported housing and for those attempting to plan and budget for services looking unhelpfully uncertain. Government now seems to recognise the issue. The sooner it confirms its position the better.