'Unscrupulous' landlords to be hit with new measures, say government – BBC


A package of new measures to crack down on "unscrupulous" landlords operating supported housing has been announced by the government.
Housing minister Eddie Hughes said £20m of funding would be made available for a three-year improvement programme.
The Conservative MP for Walsall North said some landlords were "exploiting some of the most vulnerable in our society".
Labour has welcomed what it called a government U-turn.
Exempt accommodation, a type of shared housing, has been under the national spotlight over claims it fails to look after, and in some cases exploits, some of the country's most vulnerable people.
More powers for local authorities in England to ensure rogue landlords "cannot exploit the system to the detriment of vulnerable residents" were proposed by Mr Hughes in a written statement to Parliament on Thursday.
"The supported housing improvement programme will be vital to drive up quality in the sector in some of the worst affected areas immediately, while the government develops and implements longer term regulatory changes," he said.
"This package of proposed measures will tackle poor quality and poor value for money in supported housing and improve outcomes for individuals, while preserving good quality provision run by responsible providers."
Edgbaston Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill, who has spoken about the issue in Parliament, welcomed what she described as a government U-turn but said the scheme "falls far too short".
"Our communities are picking up the pieces due to a lack of regulation and those most vulnerable are not receiving the support they need," she said.
Anyone from ex-offenders to someone in receipt of universal credit can access supported accommodation. However, there have been concerns raised about the conditions and level of support people are being given.
A BBC investigation in August heard from some residents about their "living hell" of being "stuck in a system" they cannot get out of.
Landlords can apply for provider status, exempting them from local licensing regulations and housing benefit caps. This means councils have few powers to act over the quality and safety of accommodation or how tenants are treated.
Thursday's announcement came after an inquiry was launched to examine vulnerable people's support when living in supported accommodation.
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee will look into so-called exempt housing issues across England.
Four pilot schemes, looking to improve the standard and quality of supported housing, have taken part in Hull, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bristol and Birmingham, but the Labour MP said the government had failed to publish data from them.
"They must share the findings immediately. We need urgent reform, not just a position of intent," said Ms Gill
About 600,000 people in the UK rely on supported housing at any one time and the government says it is vital landlords provide a safe, stable and supportive place to live.
In one city, Birmingham, the number of supported housing rooms has doubled in the past three years.
Former support workers have told the BBC crime and drug-ridden homes are rife across the sector, with many residents living in dangerous and hopeless situations.
While there are many good providers, a report for Birmingham City Council said the worst landlords were "trapping some of the most vulnerable people in some of the poorest accommodation with inadequate support".
Birmingham councillor Sharon Thompson, who chairs the West Midlands Combined Authority homelessness taskforce, said: "Whilst this is great news, the devil is in the detail and I will be working to ensure that the package of measures set out in [the] announcement is implemented in a way that brings the real change that is so desperately needed."
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