Levelling Up Committee launches inquiry into exempt accommodation
7 December 2021
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee has today launched an inquiry into exempt accommodation – a type of supported housing that is exempt from Housing Benefit rules limiting rents to particular levels.
This type of accommodation is used to house a range of people with support needs, such as homeless people, people who have been at risk of domestic abuse, prison leavers, and those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Exempt accommodation can be provided by housing associations, charities, or community interest companies. Providers can also rent homes from managing agents who run the service on their behalf. Costs of the accommodation are met through Housing Benefit, with local authorities recovering some or all of the costs from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Committee’s inquiry follows reports, including from the West Midlands, of unscrupulous landlords failing to provide the support and care that vulnerable tenants need, or to maintain the properties to a decent standard.
The full inquiry terms of reference are included further below.
Clive Betts, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, said:
“When provided at a decent standard and with proper support, exempt accommodation can be a lifeline for extremely vulnerable people and a vital piece of the social housing landscape. But, in the hands of neglectful landlords, pocketing taxpayer money to provide this housing, this accommodation can fall woefully short of the support that’s needed.
“It has also been especially concerning to hear about this problem from political leaders in the West Midlands, and from reports in the local and national media.
“In this inquiry we will aim to find out how exempt accommodation should best be provided and regulated, and how regulation should be enforced. We will also examine why there may be regional disparities in the quality of exempt accommodation.”
As of May 2021 there were 153,701 households in exempt accommodation in England, an increase of 61.5% since 2016.
The Regulator of Social Housing has issued non-compliant regulatory judgements or notices against thirteen providers. By July 2021 this had included issuing a non-compliant rating against three of the seven largest exempt accommodation providers in Birmingham, with three more providers subject to further review by the Regulator.
The Committee’s call for evidence is issued ahead of a series of public evidence hearings which will begin in early 2022.
Exempt accommodation terms of reference
The Committee welcomes evidence submissions [insert link] on the terms of reference outlined below. The closing date for submissions is 28th January 2022.
In particular, the inquiry seeks answers to the following questions:
- 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?
- Is there sufficient publicly available information about exempt accommodation?