1.1 Why conduct a homelessness review?
Housing authorities are required by legislation (Homelessness Act 2002 and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017) to carry out a periodic review of homelessness in their area. The purpose of the review is to determine the extent to which the population in the district is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, assess the likely extent in the future, identify what is currently being done and by whom, and identify what resources are available to prevent and tackle homelessness.
Local housing authorities should use this understanding of homelessness in their area to inform their Homelessness Strategy and they are obliged by legislation to involve partners in this process. In addition, the Homelessness Code of Guidance for local authorities sets out some requirements for a Homelessness Strategy.
- Link to the wider contributory factors of homelessness, such as health, wellbeing, employment and economic factors.
- Be consistent with other corporate strategies and objectives.
- Involve partners in implementing the strategic homelessness objectives.
- Have an Action Plan to show how the strategic objectives will be achieved.
- Be monitored and reviewed during the life of the Strategy.
1.2 Definition of Homelessness
The main provisions for dealing with homelessness are contained in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended). The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force on 3 April 2018. It made significant changes to Part 7 of the 1996 Act. Its main effect was to place increased duties on local authorities to assess an applicant’s needs and to prevent and relieve homelessness.
A person is threatened with homelessness if it is likely that they will become homeless within 56 days. This includes where they have been given a valid section 21 notice in respect of their only accommodation, and the notice is due to expire within 56 days. Where a person is threatened with homelessness, the local authority will have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent them from becoming homeless.
A person is statutorily homeless if they have no accommodation available for their occupation which they have a legal right to occupy and is reasonable for them to continue to occupy. If the person is statutorily homeless, the local authority will have some form of duty towards them. This ranges from advice and assistance, or providing interim accommodation, to the relief duty or the main housing duty of securing accommodation for a continuing period. The extent of the duty will depend on whether or not they are, or may be, eligible for assistance, in priority need, intentionally homeless, or have a local connection. It is important to note that there is only a duty to secure accommodation for those who are eligible for assistance and have a priority need.
The priority need categories are set out in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 and these are:
- Pregnant women
- Households with dependent children
- 16 and 17 year olds
- Care leavers aged 18,19 or 20
- People made homeless by an emergency
- People vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or physical disability, having been in care, having served in the armed forces, having been in custody, having to leave accommodation because of violence or abuse or those who are vulnerable for some other special reason.