Homelessness act ‘hampered by lack of affordable homes’

24 Apr 19

The Homelessness Reduction Act is being undermined by a “chronic” shortage of affordable housing, MPs have heard.

Deborah Garvie, policy manager at homeless charity Shelter, told the housing, communities and local government committee yesterday the legislation’s effectiveness is being weakened by a lack of social rented housing.

Garvie noted that although there have been “huge efforts” from local authorities, the HRA is not making a difference in terms of relieving homelessness.

She said: “You can’t relieve homelessness unless you have a home to offer to somebody, and in the areas where homelessness is most prevalent, there aren’t the affordable homes for people to go into as a result of a chronic shortage of social rented housing.”

Garvie said that the ongoing freeze to local housing allowance was another factor as it makes the “vast majority” of areas of England unaffordable to people who claim the benefit.

She added that the charity has got “no evidence that there is any increased awareness” of the legislative changes amongst the public because there was no “effort from government put into making sure people were aware of their additional rights”.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, another homelessness charity, also told the committee that among councils “overall awareness of the act is low”. 

Sparkes added that many local authorities had entered into “the spirit of the act” with 58% introducing new prevention and relief services as a result of the HRA. But he noted that some were treating the act “very literally” and failing to offer support “where there isn’t absolutely robust proof” that a person is facing homelessness.

A recent survey from the New Local Government Network think-tank found that 67% of councils thought they lacked the funding necessary to carry out new duties put in place by the act.

Read Neil Merrick’s feature for PF on the changes that have come about since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act.

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