Categories
Finance & Funding Policy

Working Together to Develop New Supported Housing

A Bit of Background

One of the issues that has preoccupied me lately is the way in which private and institutional capital has been and is being introduced to the sector to fund supported housing for people with often high levels of additional need.

Let me be clear; I’m very much in favour of this, but it’s important that it’s done properly by investors, commissioners, housing associations and care and support providers.

You’ll probably be familiar with my emphasis on Value Generation principles

  • Outcomes for people
  • Cost benefit to the public purse
  • Wider social and community benefit

It’s important that all parties have a common values base, such as Value Generation, if we are all involved with services for people with additional needs. If supported housing is developed without common values between the parties involved, the people who pay the price of failure are those who live in it and those who work directly with them to do so.

Private Capital for Supported Housing

Supported housing funded through private capital is a relatively immature “market” and the record so far is a patchy one.

Investors are being offered a good deal here if they’ve done their homework, they know they’ll get a safe long-term return on their investment. That return should be measured in single figure ROI percentages, yet commissioners tell me of investors seeking excessive double-digit percentages whilst some “aggregators” walk off with huge commissions.

If the bottom line is all that matters, then you’re dealing with the wrong sector. To the extent that supported housing is “market” it’s a social one, and your social purpose has to underpin your investment. There are some really good socially oriented investors out there and they’re looking for commissioners who need supported housing. There are housing associations that understand what their role should be and providers with the capacity and vision to take on a wider role, for example, direct responsibility for day-to-day and reactive maintenance as well as direct support to residents.

The Role of Housing Associations

Housing associations are a necessary part of the mix here and, in many cases, they don’t actually provide much or any intensive housing management and support to people who live in supported housing (who are their tenants). This is more often done by specialist providers, but not always: some housing associations are also providers in their own right.

There are different types of housing associations. The “REIT” (Real Estate Investment Trust) based housing associations are there to enable local authorities to fully recover from the DWP the enhanced Housing Benefit they claim for supported housing, and to be a regulated presence that should provide comfort to commissioners and others involved in the development of privately funded supported housing.

REIT-based housing associations need to be independent of capital finance providers, not just a vehicle for enhanced revenue. We should be entitled to expect them to manage their finances and conduct their governance in accordance with a social model of operation. They claim significant levels of public funding in the form of enhanced Housing Benefit, which is a personal benefit of their residents. They should make proper provision for the operation of the housing for which they are responsible, including the creation of maintenance sinking funds and other operational costs. They should remunerate their people on the basis of the value they generate within a social market.

The English Social Housing Regulator recently investigated a number of REIT-based housing associations that develop supported housing with the use of private capital and operate on the basis of public revenue (enhanced Housing Benefit). Regulatory judgements were issued on a number of these. Without commenting on specific cases, it seems to me that the Social Housing Regulator may have rightly censured some but did so without publicly identifying whether any individuals involved made significant personal financial gain. To some extent the Regulator may have also thrown the baby out with the bathwater by criticising other REIT-based housing associations that develop and operate very good supported housing and generate significant value.

Community-based or “traditional” housing associations are typically different from REIT-based associations as they’re not primarily vehicles for the introduction of private capital. What I would like to see is a model where these community-based housing associations act to facilitate the introduction of private capital for supported housing and matching enhanced Housing Benefit because they typically have good governance and operational/financial management.

Sometimes community-based housing associations directly manage supported housing, often they conclude Management Agreements with specialist provider agencies to do so. The agency management route is a well-worn path, but not without its own problems. One of the problems with many housing associations is a common failure to provide sufficiently responsive maintenance services. A broken window in a general needs property may not be deemed to be an “urgent” or “emergency” repair, but in supported housing it often exactly that because of the tenants’ additional needs. The provider agency is usually in a better position to deal with responsive maintenance and in my opinion the Management Agreement should allow for this and the maintenance revenue stream should go direct to the provider agency.

Socially oriented private and institutional investors, commissioners and providers in supported housing would very much value being involved with community-based housing associations, which would take a lease on the supported housing properties. Under such an arrangement, community-based housing associations would enable the claiming of enhanced Housing Benefit such that the local authorities that pay it can fully reclaim it from the DWP.

A Management Agreement would still need to be concluded with the provider agency within which the community-based housing association’s role would be minimal: ensuring that occupancy agreements with their tenants are properly administered by the provider agency and ensuring that the physical environment is of an excellent standard without actually doing the day-to-day maintenance, which would be one of the provider’s roles.

The housing association would receive a management and administration fee and possibly an equity share in the properties as well as plaudits from commissioners and others for acting according to a social purpose.

A Call To Action

I’m prompted to write about this having recently been in discussion with social investors and property developers who are looking for community housing associations and provider partners to work with in the development of new supported housing.

I’ve also been asked to help connect providers with people who fund and develop property for use of supported housing.

  • So if you’re a support provider looking for property for supported housing or the capital to develop it
  • A socially oriented property developer/investor looking for a supported housing provider or a community housing association to work with
  • A commissioner who wants to see the development of good quality supported housing in your area
  • Or a community housing association that’s interested in working with a socially oriented property developer/investor to develop supported housing, with or without an agency support provider

Then please get in touch directly with me and I can put you in touch with my wide network of contacts in the provider, housing association, commissioning and investor/developer sectors.

A Few Words of Caution

On a final, if slightly separate matter: if you’re someone who wants me to help you

  • Set up as a housing association/RP
  • Or a supported housing provider using private property in which you have a personal interest
  • Or you want enhanced Housing Benefit for supported housing that you set up without the active support of local commissioners

Then please DON’T contact me.

Please excuse the slightly tetchy tone but it sometimes gets a little tiresome. I publish blog posts and briefings promoting the need for an integrated and social approach to the development of supported housing, and I then get inundated with requests from private individuals whose intentions have much to do with private profit and little or nothing to do with social value.

I have values (see Value Generation above). They’re important to me and to supported housing in general. I work with people who share those values. I don’t work with people who don’t share those values.

Categories
Finance & Funding

Claiming Enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management

Context

I was recently rereading a Briefing on enhanced Housing Benefit and Intensive Housing Management (also known as enhanced housing management and/or additional housing management), that I wrote for Support Solutions in 2010. I was struck by how relevant and important the information in that Briefing remains today.

Enhanced Housing Benefit is payable to providers of most types of supported and sheltered housing, provided they comply with the Exempt Accommodation rules. If you’re not sure whether your organisation qualifies please ask.

Please be aware that we do not support unregulated private supported housing providers to claim Enhanced Housing Benefit for reasons set out in Thea Raisbeck’s “Exempt From Responsibility?” report.

The reason that Enhanced Housing Benefit is payable is because qualifying supported housing providers provide additional and more intensive housing management and maintenance services than would be the case in general needs rented housing. They do so because supported housing residents have additional housing needs and supported housing itself has additional maintenance and services costs.

What Are Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management?

There is no definitive list of Intensive Housing Management tasks. We have developed one based on the notion that Housing Benefit will fund tasks which are part and parcel of adequate accommodation, bearing in mind the needs of the residents, and provided these tasks are not funded elsewhere.

Many of these tasks routinely constitute much of a Support Worker or a Scheme Manager’s job description. Housing management functions such as lettings, assistance with claiming Housing Benefit to ensure that rent and service charges are paid, controlling access and facilitating and monitoring site visits from contractors and other visitors/professionals, arranging aids and adaptations, health and safety and risk assessments of property, management, administration, delivery and facilitation of housing services provided, the additional maintenance and services costs……I could go on.

If you are a non-profit provider of accommodation and support and the Intensive Housing Management tasks you perform aren’t funded by another revenue stream, then it can be funded by Housing Benefit. Even better, if you’re a registered provider of social housing (RP) and you provide supported or sheltered accommodation, in which you charge Intensive Housing Management as an eligible service charge, the local authority receives full reimbursement from the DWP in subsidy recovery. This means you’re actually bringing in money to the local area.

This subsidy top-up doesn’t fully apply where non-RPs go down this route. 40% of the difference between what you claim and the Rent Officer determination, which will be similar to the relevant Local Housing Allowance, goes onto the Council Tax bill or is picked up within another local authority budget, such as Adult Social Care. But that’s still a cost-effective way of a community funding a preventative, enabling service.

Why You Should Consider Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management

It’s a very attractive proposition for RPs and other non-profit accommodation-based support providers for a variety of reasons.

You get full cost recovery on your housing costs which have often been underfunded for years. OK, RPs have an issue with compliance with the Regulator’s Rent Standards (unless its “Specialised Supported Housing”). But that isn’t a problem: Intensive Housing Management costs can be treated as service charge items. You can re-allocate costs and budget headings from rent to housing services where feasible in supported and sheltered housing arrangements.

This enables you to invest in the properties in which people with additional needs live: the physical environment, services and staff. Your support costs can be cheaper because you’ve remodelled your service delivery structure and/or taken some costs out and allocated them (where eligible) to Intensive Housing Management, funded through Housing Benefit. This matters when you bid for support/care contracts because your unit cost for support will be lower without actually reducing your revenue – you’ve just spread the cost.

The Current & Future of Enhanced Housing Benefit & Intensive Housing Management

Having worked with Enhanced Housing Benefit since 2005 you get used to hearing people say, “but it has to end sometime”. Well it hasn’t yet and one of its distinguishing features is its longevity and the fact that case law precedent has established that Intensive Housing Management is eligible for Housing Benefit, having regard to the nature of the accommodation type and personal circumstances of the tenant group.

Over time the Enhanced Housing Benefit pot has grown. Initially, this was directly in response to the retrenchment of “Supporting People”. We advised providers (and not a few local authorities) on reallocating the eligible proportion of their Supporting People revenue loss into Enhanced Housing Benefit. Over time this has become a well-worn path, supported as it is by regulation and case law.

Commissioners/funders will routinely ask supported housing providers looking for funding “have you reallocated your eligible costs into Enhanced Housing Benefit?” because it makes absolutely no sense not to do so.

Providers might want to consider revising service delivery models if this adds value to the lives of people with additional needs. For example, we are often told “well we would provide more services because people need them, but we don’t have the funding”. One of the things we do is to review service models and staff job descriptions in order to introduce Housing Benefit-eligible services such as concierge, access control or night security, for example.

If you’re a qualifying supported or sheltered housing provider (i.e. most social/non-profit providers of supported housing) and you haven’t gone down this route, or you haven’t done so for a while, you really should think about it and get in touch.

Even with the introduction of Universal Credit Enhanced Housing Benefit remains payable in respect of supported housing tenants. This is despite the fact that Housing Benefit was one of the benefits absorbed by Universal Credit and would not otherwise exist. When someone claims Universal Credit, the online application asks the claimant whether they live in supported housing. If they answer “yes” to that question the housing component of their Universal Credit is administered by the LA on an uncapped basis under the Exempt Accommodation rules. This also gives supported housing residents protection from the Benefit Cap, and in some cases from the Spare Room Subsidy/Bedroom Tax.

The “but it has to end sometime” mantra is true of course; it’s just been overly pessimistic for years. It’s likely that the time for change will come when the UK Government finally decides on the funding model for supported housing (in England). Specifically, whether a  transitional arrangement of paying Enhanced Housing Benefit for supported housing via Universal Credit be formalised as a permanent arrangement (which is what we believe will happen). The UK Government did eventually commit to keeping the funding of supported housing within the welfare system after all.

Health and social care are devolved functions within the UK, and supported housing would be were it not for the fact that a proportion of its funding, in the form of (Enhanced) Housing Benefit, remains non-devolved. If the UK Government takes a sensible view of supported housing, and not just its funding, it’ll see it as an integrated part of the health and social care system in England going forward. At the point of change, whatever and whenever that is, it may be that Enhanced Housing Benefit will become a component of Universal Credit.

What happens in NI, Scotland and Wales depends on whether those nations have a fully devolved welfare system (easy to see in Scotland) and whether they choose to (part) fund supported housing from within it or choose to put the funding within health and social care commissioning structures.

Why You Should Think About It

Our message is that you should consider now whether you’re properly recovering the costs of providing the supported housing services that your residents need, or whether you should consider reviewing your service delivery model to enhance revenue recovery. Not just the costs of human (staff) services, but the additional costs you incur in maintaining and servicing your supported and sheltered housing.

Supported housing providers are rightly asked to demonstrate the value that they deliver. They should be equally concerned to identify the costs they incur in delivering that value.

The best way to do so is to ask us to audit what you do and to calculate what it that translates into as a full-cost recovery rent structure. If the amounts are more than you currently charge, then please let us negotiate with Housing Benefit colleagues on your behalf to redress the imbalance.

The good news is that it won’t cost you anything if we find that you can’t claim Enhanced Housing Benefit. If we find that you can, and we successfully negotiate an increase, then you pay a percentage of the increase we achieve for 1 year only. You only pay this percentage when you’re in receipt of the increased revenue and you can pay it over a 12-month period to aid cash flow. If we don’t get you an increase, you don’t pay us anything at all. Contact us.

There is an evident danger in not demonstrating your true costs, or revisiting your service delivery model, whether to appear “reasonable/competitive” to funders or for some other reason.

That danger may manifest itself if we have a funding system change at the point of which supported housing providers’ costs are frozen. If you haven’t optimised your rent and services charges income, the new system may assume you can make do with what you have.

Michael Patterson and Danny Key have worked together on Enhanced Housing Benefit, Intensive Housing Management and other things since 2005. Michael writes, publishes and speaks on supported housing and related matters and provides strategic advice a range of supported housing providers and revenue and capital funders.

Danny’s expertise lies in the technical side of Enhanced Housing Benefit and its relationship to capital. He is an expert on Housing Benefit regulations, the Exempt Accommodation rules and negotiation of claims.

If you’re interested in Enhanced Housing Benefit please get in touch. If Michael thinks your organisation properly qualifies for Enhanced Housing Benefit he’ll involve Danny and if you decide to ask us to help you claim it, you’ll also get half a day of Michael’s supported housing consultancy service (usually via Zoom) for no charge at all.

Categories
Finance & Funding

Funding Supported Housing

Context

This blog post is the third in the “What is Supported Housing?” Series. To summarise so far I have suggested that supported housing:

  • Be defined other than by timescale
  • Is where someone with an additional needs lives, for the duration of that need, irrespective of who the landlord is
  • Should be regulated (see my next blog post)
  • Should be commissioned, funded and “measured” according to Value Generation principles

The UK Government is working on draft social care legislation for England and devolved governments have yet to integrate supported housing into the health and social care mainstream. Supported housing, not least its funding, should be part of the health and social care mainstream.

Revenue

Supported housing revenue includes local authority and NHS administered funding for social and health care needs, and people’s own personal budgets.

Supporting People funding is now the exception not the rule. A significant amount of the value of the Supporting People budget (originally £1.8 billion) has been reallocated into (enhanced) Housing Benefit as Intensive Housing Management funding. It’s moved from the instability of local authority finances to the relative stability of the welfare benefits system.

The key question when it comes to recurring revenue for supported housing, however is “where will it sit in relation to the welfare benefits system?”. The UK Government gave a “Future of Supported Housing” policy commitment in 2018 to keep the funding of supported housing within the welfare system.

Lord Freud acknowledged in 2012 that people in exempt or specified accommodation would have the housing component of their Universal Credit administered by the local Housing Benefit team under the Exempt Accommodation rules. So effectively, enhanced Housing Benefit for Intensive Housing Management is paid as the housing component of Universal Credit on an uncapped basis.

I believe that this supported housing component of Universal Credit should be redesignated “Supported Housing Rent”, which should be payable to all supported housing providers regardless of legal identity, provided they are properly regulated (see my next blog post “The Regulation of Supported Housing”).

Whoever the landlord is, be it social, private, statutory, voluntary charitable; would it not be better for there to be a simple system whereby the costs of the building are met through a banded system to take account of different cost variables? In England these bandings would probably be regionally based. (See the “Lord Best letter” of 2017). The additional (non bricks and mortar) housing needs components can also be banded according to level of assessed need (low, medium or high).

This system has the advantages of reflecting variable levels of additional need and building/property costs whilst at the same time applying sufficient maxima to each band. It dispenses with the need for basing rent levels on wildly inconsistent Local Housing Allowance levels.

Within a Universal Credit claim Supported Housing Rent components would be therefore be awarded based on a banded regional basis to reflect the variable costs of the development and management of property in every and any given region of England, and whilst Universal Credit remains a non-devolved issue this model may also be of interest to NI, Scotland & Wales.

The housing based additional needs component of Supported Housing Rent could be paid at three levels: low medium and high. These are simple principles that allow for variable costs in both buildings and the needs of the people who live in them.

Recipients of Supported Housing Rent (landlords) will have to generate value:

  • outcomes for people
  • cost benefit to the public purse
  • wider community benefit.

They will have to comply with regulatory standards (see my next blog post). We really should dispense with the absurd and discriminatory notion that peoples’ entitlements to enhanced revenue (in this case Supported Housing Rent) as a consequence of their additional needs should be dependent on the legal identity of their landlord, which is the case now.

Capital

The capital funding of supported housing is a blog post in its own right. However, having given a view on supported housing revenue it seems sensible to make some summary comments on the capital position.

We are moving increasingly in the direction of private capital funded supported housing. This has been especially so in the case of Specialised Supported Housing (what I would refer to as “Intensive Supported Housing”).

There is a need to get the balance right between social motivation and profit. Put a different way, there is a need to be realistic about what percentage return on capital public revenue should be expected to return. Investors should generate value in what they do just as much as providers of supported housing are expected to do.

REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), which facilitate much of the investment in supported housing, need to evolve their structures in the light of the English social housing regulator’s judgements against some REIT-based housing associations and the associated trade press reporting.

Conversely, we should consider how well-placed social housing regulators across the UK are to oversee supported housing, a significant amount of which sits outside their sectors. I think there are strong arguments to make for the independent regulation of supported housing, arguments I shall attempt to make in my next blog.

Investment in supported housing is based on a viable revenue stream. This viable revenue stream, with its consequent impetus to investors, should be built into universal credit on a Supported Housing Rent basis.

The UK Government will also continue to deploy public capital (and revenue) in the form of targeted funding for specific outcomes. For example, it has recently announced that it is bringing forward £160m of its Rough Sleeping Services budget to provide 6000 homes with support for street homeless people in England. This is ambitious enough to be a game changer for street homelessness, provided the revenue for support is sufficient and stays in place.

Conclusion

We need to think about the funding of supported housing in the context of its outcomes (see my blog post on defining supported housing) and its regulation (watch this space!).

Supported housing needs revenue funding certainty for its day to day operation and in order to give investors confidence to invest and providers confidence to provide.

Supported Housing Rent builds revenue and confidence into the system and makes the relationship between needs and resources. It retains revenue for supported housing within the welfare benefits system.

Supported housing providers, “social” or not, should generate value and comply with a regulatory framework in order to qualify for Supported Housing Rent.

Categories
Finance & Funding

Funding Intensive Housing Management

Many of you will know what “Intensive Housing Management” is. It’s a term that the old Housing Corporation in England used to describe the additional housing management services that people in supported housing often need. Intensive Housing Management services were funded by the Housing Corporation through a revenue grant known (latterly) as SHMG (Supported Housing Management Grant) some of which was often paid on by RSLs to their specialist agency partners that typically manage the RSL’s supported housing.

The set of prescribed intensive housing management services was defined in hardcopy in the Housing Corporation’s “Guide to Supported Housing”, before the age of the Internet. There is a similar list you can gain access to online here: in Scottish statutory instruments 2002 number 444 with its list of “Prescribed Housing Support Services” in Regulation 3.

The revenue funding streams for intensive housing management were put into the Supporting People pot in 2003, to help fund what became known as “Housing Related Support”. And that, you might think, was the end of that.

Except that it wasn’t. Supporting People begin to retrench very quickly. In 2005 Michael Patterson and Danny Key teamed up to identify and promote a regulatory means of mitigating providers’ losses of Supporting People revenue, by claiming the cost of eligible Intensive Housing Management tasks from Housing Benefit. This involves the use of the Exempt Accommodation route to enhanced levels of Housing Benefit. 

Over time this led to a substantial number of eligible providers (housing associations and voluntary agencies namely) being able to claim enhanced levels of Housing Benefit for the costs of the eligible housing management tasks Supporting People no longer funded.

Michael Patterson renamed these eligible housing management tasks as “Intensive Housing Management”, a term which has returned to the language of supported housing, bringing with it a substantial pot of revenue known as enhanced Housing Benefit, which continues to exist to this day.

As someone with a values base I commend the “Exempt From Responsibility?” report written by Thea Raisbeck in November 2019 for Spring/Commonweal Housing, which identifies problems over the lack of regulation of supported housing, and the oversight of the system through which some landlords claimed enhanced Housing Benefit. To put it more bluntly: some unregulated supported housing providers are claiming Housing Benefit but apparently not providing adequate housing or intensive housing management services.

Not all supported housing providers are eligible for intensive housing management funding, but most social supported housing providers are. Rather than go through the criteria for Exempt Accommodation compliance here (but watch this space) just ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a genuinely social organisation? (For the purposes of enhanced Housing Benefit this means nonprofit)
  • Do you generate value?
    • Outcomes for people
    • Cost-benefit
    • Wider social benefit (Community Sustainment)
  • Do you own or manage supported housing?.

If you can say yes to the above questions you’re likely to be eligible to claim Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance funding. It’s a complex process that requires you (or me on your behalf) to audit your supported housing and provide a properly optimised rent structure that you can use to support an enhanced Housing Benefit claim. I have a useful spreadsheet for your revised rent structure that you can continue to use into the future.

If, on the basis of my rent structure, you decide you want to claim Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance funding you can negotiate with the local authorities you work with, on your own. Or you can ask me to refer you to Support Solutions, the leading experts in enhanced Housing Benefit negotiation.

If you decide to work with Support Solutions you won’t have to pay my fee for devising the rent structure. Support Solutions will work for you on a “no increase, no fee” basis, taking only a percentage of the increase they achieve, for one year only.

It’s also important to consider the likely future funding of Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance, and supported housing in general for that matter. I’ll keep the wider context for a future blog post/briefing but what about the Intensive Housing Management components of supported housing revenue, currently paid as enhanced Housing Benefit?

We should bear in mind both the implementation of Universal Credit and the UK Government’s (stalled) “future funding of supported housing” policy agenda.

Universal Credit allows supported housing claimants to have the housing component of their Universal Credit paid by local Housing Benefit teams as enhanced Housing Benefit. The future funding of supported housing policy agenda originally intended to pass supported housing revenue, of which Intensive Housing Management funding is a substantial part, to local authorities but that idea was parked.

Nothing much has happened on the supported housing policy agenda due to the UK Government’s preoccupation with Brexit and the current Covid 19 pandemic. But the UK Government is working on a Social Care Bill, and they would be remiss to omit supported housing from it.

It seems opportune therefore to remind the UK Government and the wider sector that Intensive Housing Management funding needs to stay exactly where it is now – as a flexible component of Universal Credit.

Going back to the “Exempt From Responsibility?” report, and my own briefings for Support Solutions going back some years, it’s not just about the future funding of supported housing, important though that is. It’s also about supported housing regulation, it’s about how we define supported housing and it’s about what values base we apply to supported housing.

I’ll be publishing more blog posts and briefings in future you can see and follow my blog site (supportedhousing.blog) Please also follow me on Twitter at @MPattersonLtd

I’ll be following up this blog post with a briefing on Intensive Housing Management and Maintenance, co-authored with Danny Key of Support Solutions. Watch this space!