Supportive shared housing – A solution for those at risk of homelessness?

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - 12:03pm

High rents, low wages and insecure employment options are driving up homelessness among the under 35s. Commonweal Housing’s Peer Landlord project provides a credible, replicable housing solution.

Young man on the streets with a back-pack

You don’t need to look far these days to gain a detailed insight into how the UK's housing system is fundamentally failing those who need it the most. Recent figures published show the impact at the sharp end – homelessness is not going away, it’s getting worse.

At Commonweal, we exist to invest in and support the development of innovative housing-based solutions to tackle social injustice. Since 2012, our Peer Landlord project has provided a new supportive shared housing option for a particular cohort of individuals facing a particular injustice. These are single homeless people to whom local authorities have no statutory duty, and for whom options are few and far between. They do not require supported housing, but the mainstream private rental sector is at this stage, a step too far or simply unaffordable. Local housing allowances, already suppressed, are set to be squeezed further for under 35s.

Facing an impossible cycle of sofa surfing, failed private rented sector (PRS) tenancies and even rough sleeping; these individuals are pushed through expensive and intensive hostel and supported housing options. This presents a clear social injustice. They are capable of independent living, perhaps with a little financial leeway and tenancy support, but do not have an appropriate housing option.

For many of these individuals the hands-on interventions associated with hostels and supported housing is often unnecessary and coupled with the instability of a chaotic housing situation, it can have a detrimental impact on those who are working and looking for stability and progress.

Run in partnership with Catch 22 and Thames Reach, Peer Landlord seeks to address this injustice, providing a good quality, affordable and supportive shared housing option that simply isn’t there otherwise.

The model works by charging a genuinely affordable rent, driven by the LHA shared room allowance while aiming to keep costs to a minimum by limiting management intervention.  A nominated ‘peer landlord’ tenant within each property takes on certain responsibilities and acts as the doorway to the house for a property manager from our project partners. Together the nominated peer landlord and property manager provide a supportive, not supported, environment for our tenants. Many of those on the project are engaged in low-paid, insecure work and may be in receipt of benefits. Through Peer Landlord, they can live independently in a shared house, just as in the PRS, but there is a supportive safety net there if needed.

This distinction between supported and supportive is crucial to Peer Landlord. By this we mean an approach, which provides stability and security of tenure without the expensive, hands-on approach of supported housing. Peer Landlord has demonstrated that this has a positive impact, enabling individuals to enjoy more flexibility, helping them to build resilience while they look to progress into employment, education or training.

We’ve seen great examples of tenants sustaining a tenancy through Peer Landlord that would have been beyond them in the PRS, with great examples of households supporting each other. Our tenants tell us they value the independence and freedom Peer Landlord provides, and the platform to make progress. As a good quality genuinely affordable solution, it can be the right solution for many people.

With the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, another major legislative change is fast approaching.  We feel a fresh look at shared housing is needed to provide a range of appropriate options for people who find themselves homeless – a choice between supported housing, hostels, and the PRS isn’t enough. Peer Landlord can be one of those options. One thing we do know is that it’s an option that is needed, and simply isn’t available elsewhere.

From a  project point of view, we’ve learned a huge amount about getting the balance right in terms of how to be supportive, maximising income collection, handling arrears, getting tenant selection right and more. Peer Landlord isn’t always perfect, by any means, but we’ve arrived at a model we think works and can be replicated by others across the UK. Something we are keen to see happen.

Commonweal Housing’s latest report outlining the details of Peer Landlord and where they see this model of supportive housing going is available here. For further details please contact Matthew Wale, Peer Landlord Project Manager at mattheww@commonweal.org.uk

Talk To Us

Matthew Wale

Peer Landlord Project Manager at Commonweal Housing

Matthew is the Peer Landlord Project Manager at Commonweal Housing.

Related articles