Housing associations play a vital role in homelessness prevention and support.

They do this by delivering a wide range of services, including partnering with local authorities to provide housing, offering supported housing for homeless people with multiple and complex needs, and preventing homelessness through tenancy sustainment support.

Nevertheless, homelessness remains a significant and growing problem in England. According to the Crisis Homelessness Monitor 2017, the total number of rough sleepers has increased by 132% since 2010 and the number of families living in temporary accommodation has also risen sharply. Causes for the increase are complex, but a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals that welfare reform has played a significant role in the rising homelessness we see today.

Housing homeless and vulnerable people has always been a key part of what the sector does. The Federation is currently running a project to better understand the wide range of services housing associations provide and enhance the sector’s offer on homelessness.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA) is the first major piece of homelessness legislation in 15 years.

The act places new duties on local authorities to help prevent and relieve homelessness. It is designed to provide support to anyone eligible for assistance and threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need.

Key measures include:

  • An extension of the period during which an authority should treat someone as threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days.
  • A new duty to prevent homelessness for all eligible applicants threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need.
  • A new duty to relieve homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants, regardless of priority need. This help could be, for example, the provision of a rent deposit or debt advice.
  • A new duty on public services to notify a local authority if they come into contact with someone they think may be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.


Implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act

The Act was implemented in April 2018. Funding for local authorities is set at £72.7 million over three years.

The draft Code of Guidance for Local Authorities was published in October 2017.

Read our briefing on the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Impact of the Act on housing associations

There are no duties placed on housing associations by the Homelessness Reduction Act. However, as so many members are keen to support the implementation of the Act, we have worked with the MHCLG to develop a housing association offer on the Duty to Refer. We have called this the Commitment to Refer - read more about it and how you can sign up.

What is Housing First?

Housing First is a housing solution for people with multiple and complex needs who have histories of entrenched or repeat homelessness. This represents about 20% of the homeless population.

Housing First differs from other approaches to supporting homeless people because individuals do not have to prove they are ready for independent housing before they are provided with a home.

Individuals are provided with stable, independent homes alongside coordinated wrap-around, personalised support. This can be used to address homelessness among specific groups, such as vulnerable women, as described in this blog.

This principles of Housing First in England are summarised in a report by Homeless Link, while a study commissioned by Crisis explores the feasibility of implementing the approach across the Liverpool City Region.

The Housing First model has been widely adopted across the USA, and is central to national homelessness strategies in a number of European countries, including Finland, Denmark and France. In the UK, Scotland runs a number of Housing First schemes, and interest across the country is growing.

Impact of Housing First on housing associations

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on Housing First. We’ll be surveying the membership shortly, but if you have any thoughts you’d like to share with us in the meantime, please contact Sarah-Jane Gay