Council agrees £2m funding to provide settled homes for homeless people

Published: Thursday, 16th September 2021

Oxford City Council has agreed £2m in funding to provide settled homes for people with experience of or at risk of rough sleeping.

Yesterday (15 September), cabinet confirmed a £2m investment in the Resonance National Homelessness Property 2 Fund (NHPF2). This will help create a £6m fund to buy properties that would house around 47 people with low to medium support needs moving on from temporary accommodation, supported housing and the streets.

The council’s contribution will be match funded by social impact investment company Resonance, which created and manages NHP2F. The council has also submitted a bid to the government's  Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) for £2m in capital funding and £543,000 in support costs.

The NHP2F will allow the purchase of 10 shared houses in Oxford, providing homes for at least 30 people. Another 17 one-bed flats will be in nearby areas with good transport links to the city, such as Abingdon and Kidlington. Tenancies of up to two years at local housing allowance (LHA) rates will then be offered to people:

  • in council temporary accommodation who are at risk of rough sleeping
  • leaving high needs supported accommodation but not eligible for social housing
  • “off the street” and new to rough sleeping

Housing management and support for tenants will be provided by Response.

Why is this needed?

The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2018 has seen a change in the type of household owed a housing duty, with single people now making up more than half of placements into council temporary accommodation. Over four fifths have at least three unmet support needs that make it difficult for them to sustain a roof over their heads, restricting their move-on options and putting them at risk of rough sleeping.

Nearly a third of people in high needs supported accommodation are not eligible for social housing because they have no local connection to Oxford. At the same time, there are limited options for people new to rough sleeping who would be able to sustain a tenancy with low to medium levels of support.

The private rented sector represents the main move-on option for all three groups but the cost of renting privately in Oxford presents a formidable barrier to securing and maintaining a tenancy.

While the LHA rate for Oxford is £516.22 a month for shared housing and £775.02 a month for one-bed accommodation, the Office for National Statistics reports lower quartile local private rents of £565 a month for shared housing, rising to £750 a month for a studio flat and £955 a month for other one-bed housing.

By providing housing at LHA rates, the NHPF2 programme will unlock affordable move-on from temporary and supported accommodation and the streets. This will help to sustain the reduction in the number of people experiencing or at risk of rough sleeping achieved since its peak in 2017.

How does NHPF2 work?

The council has previously invested £10m in an earlier Resonance fund, NHPF, which bought 229 homes around the UK for people affected by homelessness – including 69 properties in Oxford. The council has exclusive nomination rights into these homes, which has helped prevent homelessness for 107 households.

As a social impact investment, the NHPF generates rental income for the council. When the first NHPF closes at the end of 2024 the council will receive a return of their investment and any capital growth.

The 10-year NHPF2 specifically targets housing intervention for individuals and families who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness, which will also reduce the number of people experiencing rough sleeping.

NHPF2 will use the same model as before, with Resonance aiming to achieve a total fund size of £100m.

Comment

The gap between local housing allowance rates and actual rents makes it difficult for people to move on from temporary accommodation, supported housing or the streets. Investing in the NHPF2 means we can keep providing suitable and affordable homes for single people with experience of or at risk of rough sleeping. The NHPF2 is a cost-effective homelessness prevention option, with the additional benefit of being a social investment for the council.”

Councillor Diko Blackings, cabinet member for affordable housing, housing security and housing the homeless

“We are delighted to receive this second investment from Oxford City Council into our National Homelessness Property funds, which provides an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Oxford, as well as providing a solution to a significant local housing issue. It means that people in the city in need of stable housing but unable to access the private rental market can be provided with a safe and affordable home and, with support from Response, can start to rebuild their lives.”

John Williams, managing director of property funds at Resonance