West Midlands-based Prospect Supported Housing contacted us for communications and campaigns support when it was considering closure in 2021. Prospect provided more than 2,000 homes, a large proportion of it leased ‘Exempt Accommodation’ where the organisation or managing agent also delivered care, support or supervision for residents.
Homes like this are exempt from rent restrictions and licensing rules, which mean that people living in them can occupy some of the poorest quality but most expensive properties, badly suited to people with mental ill-health, drug and alcohol problems, those leaving care or with a history of offending and other vulnerable groups.
Prospect’s experience was that exempt accommodation became highly concentrated in particular neighbourhoods. Loopholes in the funding and regulatory regimes also meant some providers were taking advantage of vulnerable people in need of housing.
Inadequate oversight and risk management by some its managing agents meant that Prospect could no longer meet regulatory standards and had to close. But in taking the tough decision to cease operating, the interim board and executive were determined to publicise the national scandal of exempt accommodation and help others to avoid similar problems.
We copy-edited and designed a research report that highlighted the serious flaws, shortcomings and potential for abuse in this part of urban housing markets, emphasising the unacceptable risks for occupiers, communities and public finances. The report called on national and local politicians, other registered housing providers, regulators, charities and responsible property owners to take actions to secure better homes and prospects for vulnerable people.
The report was launched by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness, with support from Crisis. It attracted substantial media interest, including Inside Housing, BBC News, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky.