Sheltered Housing duped by Freud LHA maxima letter?
Posted by JOEHALEWOODHSG on MARCH 3, 2016
Is sheltered housing covered by the ‘exceptions’ in Lord Freud’s urgent written statement over the LHA maxima cap of 1 March? No!
Lord Freud issued a written answer that was published in both Houses of Parliament with regard to the LHA maxima cap. The statement we must assume was carefully worded as Lord Freud has known full well of the very specific terminology used in supported and sheltered housing since he received scores of consultation responses back in the Autumn of 2011 and he has since met regularly with supported and sheltered housing representatives frequently ever since.
Look very very carefully at the wording he uses housing people and not once is the word ‘sheltered’ housing used and instead only ‘supported’ housing is stated. Look again and we find no mention of either “exempt accommodation” or any mention of “specified accommodation” – the latter being a wider term Frued came up with in the frequent discussions mentioned above.
Here is the statement in full:
Firstly note there is no mention of any ‘exception’ for the rare instances of general needs housing at a social rent that is higher then the LHA equivalents in certain locales. While rare these do exist and they have not been exempted or excepted.
Secondly, there is no exception or exemption for social housing let on the affordable rent basis and these AR units are often higher than the LHA rates. To keep the point brief rather than list examples, average LHA in payment is £109 per week and average gross market rent (GMR) is £186 per week which means average LHA is circa 60% of GMR and affordable rent is up to 80% of GMR. As such many AR rents are higher than LHA and are not excepted.
What both of the above points mean is that any new tenants in such properties in 4 weeks time will face a housing benefit cut from April 2018 and social landlords need to be aware of that and also need to ensure all new tenants are aware of that.
However the real issue is whether sheltered housing is included or not in this 1 year deferment and the precise wording of Freud’s statement is much more than a semantic argument when it is read and re-read.
Much of sheltered housing may not be considered as supported housing and it is often not “exempt accommodation” or “specified accommodation” under HB regulations. That is a known fact and more significantly, is a fact known to Lord Freud.
Many tenants in the many forms of sheltered housing are also NOT older people which we must assume means those of state pension age when Freud uses the vague term of “supported housing for older … people” in the statement. Many sheltered housing tenants are between 55 and 67 and thereore not of state pension age. The 1 year deferment will not apply to them either and so can landlords of low level (category 1) sheltered housing let to new tenants from 4 weeks time if they are under state pension age?
Is sheltered supported housing?
No the two terms are not synonymous or interchangeable – again something Lord Freud knows all too well. There is no argument that extra care sheltered is supported housing and there are strong arguments that resident warden sheltered schemes – the old category 2 sheltered in housing jargon – can be argued to be supported. Yet is the old category 1 non resident sheltered housing classed as supported housing?
The answer to that is no it is not – and that is of huge concern to social landlords as this is by far the most numerous typr of sheltered housing.
Firstly, category 1 sheltered is not “exempt accommodation” under HB regulations and we know this as many there under state pension age are hit by the bedroom tax which exempts tenants living in such “exempt accommodation.”
Secondly, Category 1 sheltered is not (necessarily) included in the “specified accommodation” provisions and definition set out in HB circular A8 of 2014 and the word sheltered is not mentioned in that circular at all and even the argument that non resident warden category 1 sheltered receives support or supervision still has to overcome the de minimis nature of that.
There are highly involved arguments I could add to this as to why the majority of sheltered hosuing is not supported housing and why Freud’s carefully written statement is extremely ambiguous, which it is. However, we were promised that Frued would act ‘urgently’ and reassure the supported AND sheltered housing sectors of social housing and this statement does not get anywhere close to that in terms of sheltered housing.
The statement is meaningless with regard to homeless and other hostels and to DV refuges as the one year deferment is irrelvant as such services typically and almost universally fail to have licensees resident there for more than 6 months and so all of those in situ in April 2018 will be hit by swingeing housing benefit cuts that the LHa maxima policy gives – and they will close. That is not scaremongering but incontrovertible fact.
In summary those who initially welcomed this statement need to revise their views and read the statement very very carefully indeed. As does the Labour Party and its leader who proclaimed this as a political success when it is far from that and Lord Freud is speaking with forked tongue and sophistry here.
Imagine that a social landlord believes this statement includes new tenants to category 1 sheltered and fails to inform the new tenant admitted in May 2016. Then it transpires that category 1 sheltered is not exempt from the LHA maxima but category 2 and extra care is exempt. Will that new tenant from May 2016 have a legal challenge against the social landlord if his or her housing benefit is then cut in April 2018?
If social landlords do NOT get absolute certainty and absolute clarification from Lord Freud and the DWP that sheltered housing is covered by this letter then they could be exposed to legal challenge and to some extremely aggrieved tenants come April 2018.sheltered housingʃɛltədˈhaʊzɪŋ/
nounBritishnoun: sheltered accommodation
- accommodation for elderly or disabled people consisting of private independent units with some shared facilities and a warden.