Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:46 am on 18th November 2022.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 9:46 am, 18th November 2022

Clearly, one problem is that we do not know where all these properties are. We do not have the data right now. The hon. Lady will obviously know about Croydon, and we have concentrated on Birmingham. We know about Blackpool, Scarborough, Southwark, and certain other places in the country, but that just highlights that this issue is endemic across the country and why we need to take appropriate action.

Once a resident is working they may lose part of their housing benefit, and providers receive lower profits as a result, even though it is adequate to pay the rent. The conundrum therefore is that someone cannot afford a private rented property until they have a job, and they cannot get a job until they move into a property with affordable rent. That vicious cycle leaves nothing for those individuals to do during the day, and adds to increasing levels of antisocial behaviour resulting from inadequate exempt accommodation.

Exempt accommodation draws its name from its categorisation as exempt from locally set caps on housing benefit. That means that landlords can set sky-high rents, paid for out of taxpayers’ money, on the basis that they are offering adequate support. Where every room in a property is converted into a small bedroom, often properties would have with 60 or 70 bedrooms and a mere three bathrooms. Unscrupulous landlords have a licence to print money, making excessive profits by capitalising on loopholes in the market. In many cases, we were informed that there was more money in being a rogue provider than in illegal drug dealing. We are already seeing exempt accommodation abuse spreading across local authorities—I have mentioned Birmingham—and, without the Bill, it is only a matter of time before cases prevail in all areas of the country.