One of the biggest issues facing BHT and all providers of social housing, including Brighton and Hove City Council, is the Treasury’s decision to cap from April 2018 Housing Benefit for all accommodation provided by social landlords at the level available for private rents. This measure will make unviable many specialist schemes for people who are homeless, have mental health problems, or addressing issues of addiction. The additional rent is to provide the additional housing management that these projects require.
For example, the City Council has a plan to develop a new accommodation scheme for eight homeless men and women with multiple and complex needs. The scheme is dependent on rental income of £230,000 that the project could generate under current arrangements.
However, following these changes, and assuming the accommodation will be self-contained, the most that of the City Council will be able to generate will be £63,000. (If it is shared accommodation, this reduces further to just £34,000). The difference will have to be made up by additional charges to residence (impossible for them to meet) or from council tax (highly unlikely in the current period of austerity).
There are other proposals, which I can’t presently talk about, which are being pursued without reference to this change. It is really important that local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups factor in this fundamental change in how supported housing schemes are funded and to make appropriate alternative provision. It is potentially the biggest change in funding in my 30 years at BHT.
The consequences, should they ignored this change and should the government proceed with it, will be to see the specialist projects closing and the number of rough sleepers increasing.