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Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee launches inquiry into exempt accommodation

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has launched an inquiry into exempt accommodation.  Exempt accommodation is intended for people with support needs, including those who have been homeless, recently left prison, fled domestic violence or are dealing with addiction issues.  The housing is intended to come with additional support, which makes it ‘exempt’ from caps on Local Housing Allowance to cover the costs, allowing providers to charge higher rents, which are covered 100% by the Department of Work and Pensions through Housing Benefit.

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the national homeless charity Crisis revealed that 153,071 UK households were housed in exempt accommodation in May 2021, a 62% increase since 2016.  A second FOI request made by Prospect Housing revealed that at least £816m was spent by government on exempt accommodation in the financial year to 31 March 2021 alone.

Crisis describes the exempt accommodation sector as being “dangerously under-regulated”.  The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has found a number of providers of exempt accommodation to be non-compliant with its Governance and Financial Viability Standard.

The inquiry aims to establish a clearer picture of the amount and quality of provision of exempt accommodation, including understanding the strengths and weaknesses of current provision and looking for recommendations on the changes that might be needed to improve exempt accommodation.

The Committee has called for evidence with a submission deadline of 28 January 2022 and is in particular eager to receive information in relation to:

  • What is the quality of exempt housing provision?
  • Is the current model of exempt accommodation financially viable, and does it represent value for money?
  • Are there significant geographical and regional differences in the provision and the problems of exempt accommodation?
  • What is the proportion of exempt accommodation that is provided by registered compared to non-registered providers, and is an appropriate balance being struck?
  • What is the proportion of exempt accommodation provided by commissioned compared to non-commissioned providers, and is an appropriate balance being struck?
  • How does whether a provider is registered or non-registered, or commissioned or non-commissioned, impact the quality of provision?
  • How should exempt accommodation be provided and what should the service cost?
  • How should the regulatory oversight of exempt accommodation be organised?
  • What should be the regulations governing exempt accommodation and how should those regulations be enforced? and
  • Is there sufficient publicly available information about exempt accommodation?