Oxford City Council plans to guarantee the rent of those tenants at risk of homelessness, a consequence of the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-17.
Under the Bill, local authorities will be required to help all eligible people – whether they are single or a family – for 56 days before they are threatened with homelessness. Those who are already homeless will get support for a further 56 days to help them secure accommodation. Central government will intervene if councils fail on homelessness prevention.
Other services will also be required to refer homeless people or those at risk to local authority housing teams who can provide them with free information and advice services.
The Oxford authority is piloting a new scheme over the next two years which will see it guarantee rent for private landlords who take on tenants deemed susceptible to becoming homeless.
In return for promising to pay rent for vulnerable tenants who cannot afford it, the council will require the tenants to provide evidence that they are taking positive steps to increase their incomes, including by embarking on training programmes.
The council has set-aside £172,000 for the initial trial, which is expected to help around 40 families, of which half are already in the private rented sector (PRS).
David Rundle, PRS team leader at Oxford City Council, has said:
“For the long-term, it is the only show on the road to attract private landlords to take on vulnerable tenants in our area.
“I would say that local authorities are going to have to up their guarantees to private landlords to attract them to people on low incomes.”
The new scheme will sees landlords receive three months’ rent in advance of the tenancy and vulnerable families will receive a tailored support package.
The scheme is Oxford’s attempt to anticipate the arrival of the Homelessness Reduction Bill which is currently before the House of Lords, as well as mitigate the impacts of Universal Credit on people living in PRS accommodation, said Mr Rundle.
“We are learning as we go and we believe we have got an attractive offer to landlords and tenants. I think it is one of many trials that should be tried to help people avoid homelessness.”
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