Social Lettings Agencies in the West Midlands

MULLINS, David, SACRANIE, Halima and PATTISON, Ben (2017). Social Lettings Agencies in the West Midlands. Project Report. Birmingham, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Social Lettings Agencies (SLAs) have been described succinctly by Shelter Scotland (Evans, 2015) as agencies that ‘help people access the PRS who are homeless or on low-incomes”. SLA is a general term applied to schemes that secure access to decent, affordable private rental accommodation for households in need and on low incomes who would previously have been likely to access social housing. The growth of SLAs has been a consequence of the falling supply of social housing, growth in the private rented sector, expansion of ‘housing options’ approaches since the Homelessness Act 2002 and discharge of homeless duties in the private rented sector since the Localism Act 2011. The West Midlands Housing Officers Group has supported this project by the Housing and Communities Research Group at the University of Birmingham to explore the current and potential future role of SLAs in the region. Its relevance to current policy has increased considerably since the time of its commissioning. Changing market conditions and in particular the growing gap between social housing supply and demand and rising homelessness have led to increasing policy support for SLAs in England. In 2015 the right leaning Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) recommended the Government to ‘greatly expand the role of social lettings agencies across the country’ (Winterburn, 2015 p.3). Key aims of SLAs were considered by CSJ as being ‘to minimise risk to landlords so they are willing to let to benefit claimants (ibid p.61) ’ and to provide a measure of support for tenancy sustainability ‘typically SLAs will have support workers who regularly check in on the vulnerable’ (ibid p.62). By 2017 Theresa May’s Conservative Government as part of its plan to ‘fix our broken housing market’ wanted to ‘consider whether SLAs can be an effective tool for securing more housing for people who would otherwise struggle – providing security for landlords and support for tenants to help strengthen and sustain tenancies’ (DCLG 2017, p.66) . This parallels developments in other countries with an insufficient supply of social housing such as Belgium, Ireland and Hungary where the idea of SLAs has been more prevalent than in England to date (De Decker, 2002, Laylor, 2014, Hegedus et al 2014). The project brief set out the purpose of the project to explore the scope for SLAs to address the needs of low income households seeking decent, secure and affordable rented homes in the Midlands. This would include an in-depth study of Let to Birmingham SLA, case studies of other SLAs in the region and peer learning events to share experience and ideas about properties, people and process and in what respects PRS could become the ‘new social housing’ (in terms of security, affordability and quality issues).

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research
Depositing User: Ben Pattison
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2017 09:11
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2017 18:21
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15740

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