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Finance & Funding

The Consultation on Rent Capping & Enhanced Housing Benefit

As you’re doubtless aware the Regulator for Social Housing is currently consulting on the introduction of a core rent increase of 3%, 5% or 7% for social housing. The consultation is here.

The reason for the consultation is the significant increase in the rate of inflation in circumstances where social housing core rents can currently be annually increased by CPI +1%. If CPI is around 10%-11% or more, then a core rent rise of this magnitude is unsupportable by the great majority of mainstream social housing tenants. Many would argue that any core rent rise is unsupportable by many social housing tenants.

What is significant, to me at least, about this consultation is that supported housing is not exempt from the cap, and that supported housing is expected to meet the definition of “low-cost rental accommodation” (e.g., homes let at Social Rent or Affordable Rent). 

The Regulator hasn’t entirely closed the door on exempting supported housing from the proposed cap, much depends on your responses to the consultation. If you have supported housing stock, please do respond to the Consultation and set out clearly the implications of core rent capping for your schemes.

When rent convergence was introduced back in 2010, the Regulator (then known as the Housing Corporation) seemingly omitted to consider supported housing before deciding to give supported/sheltered housing 10% leeway on the core rent convergence figure, which is not a realistic reflection of the additional core rent costs of supported housing.

Assuming that the Regulator is limiting its focus to the core rent, not the gross rent, when putting together enhanced Housing Benefit claims for supported (and some sheltered) housing we must offset the core rent costs in excess of the allowed amount into the service charge in order to conform with core rent compliance. This would make a mockery of the core rent compliance requirements were it not for the fact that it’s already a mockery in the context of supported housing, because the core rent costs of supported housing routinely exceed the allowable core rent amount, even with the 10% leeway. If the Regulator wishes to cap the gross rent for supported housing, then we have a big problem.

I am currently involved in supporting RP clients to respond to demands from the Regulator for Social Housing that RPs structure (specialised) supported housing rents at “social levels”. In so doing they say that for supported housing to be deemed as “social” it must comply with section 69 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, this is even though Specialised Supported Housing is supposedly exempt from the Rent Standard entirely. Again, in this context, the Regulator hasn’t clarified whether it means the core rent or the gross rent.

Furthermore, I was told by a social impact investor that the Regulator for Social Housing had told them that “exempt rents will be beyond our regulatory scope”. Again, do they mean only Specialised Supported Housing, within which the core rent is effectively unrestricted, or do they mean all types of supported housing where the gross rent levels routinely exceed “low cost/social rent” levels?

If they’re referring to the gross rent, what this means is that the Regulator for Social Housing does not regard supported housing in receipt of exempt rents to be “social housing”. For RPs that have accommodation that is deemed to be “social housing” as well as supported housing with exempt rents, this shouldn’t make a difference to enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements as they’re regulated organisations with regulated occupancy agreements. In fact, the removal of inappropriate regulatory demands from supported housing providers could be helpful. However, for RPs that only have “exempt rent” supported and sheltered housing, they face the potential prospect of being told they don’t have any “social housing” and will therefore be subject to deregistration with a significant threat to their enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements. If this does occur the Exempt Accommodation Project may be able to help. Please contact me about this.

Enhanced Housing Benefit.

Whilst the position of the Regulator for Social Housing on supported housing and exempt rents is at best ambivalent, it is nonetheless important for RP and non-RP providers of supported (and some sheltered[1]) housing to review their enhanced Housing Benefit claims, especially in the light of surging energy costs that equate to around 70% of the inflation rate. Energy costs are a service charge cost, not a core rent cost. 

Similarly, maintenance and repair costs are increasingly expensive. To the extent to which this is an issue for mainstream social housing, which it definitely is, it’s a huge issue for supported and sheltered housing. The opportunity to try and offset at least some of the increased maintenance and repair costs through a revised enhanced Housing Benefit claim is important to take.

As you may know, we work with Danny Key on larger enhanced Housing Benefit projects and only charge if we are successful in increasing your enhanced Housing Benefit entitlements (we charge a percentage of the increase we achieve, payable only when you are in receipt of the increased amounts, and payable over a period of up to 12 months).

It is increasingly difficult for supported housing providers that don’t work with RPs to negotiate enhanced Housing Benefit claims. If you’re in this situation the Exempt Accommodation Project may be able to help if you’re a local authority approved provider. The Exempt Accommodation Project is very busy now, and we are always looking for community-based RPs to work with us on this whilst they develop a leasehold portfolio and an attractive revenue stream. Please contact me directly about this.

Supported housing providers who want help with enhanced Housing Benefit claims, with or without an RP, please contact revenue@michaelpatterson.co.uk. If you have Danny’s contact details and you go direct to him, please cc revenue@michaelpatterson.co.uk and let Danny know you’re contacting him having read this briefing.

  1. Where the landlord provides care, support & supervision that is “more than minimal”.

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