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.