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Exempt Accommodation in Birmingham needs reform
Vulnerable tenants face exploitation in our city
Exempt accommodation has exploded in Birmingham over the last ten years, with the vulnerable of Birmingham being turned into a money making scheme for unscrupulous landlords.
Exempt accommodation is a form of supported housing in which vulnerable people such as the homeless, prison leavers, care leavers, and refugees can be accommodated, often while receiving support. Larger residential properties are often turned into HMOs, splitting houses into individual rooms to get as many tenants in them as possible. Exempt accommodation is not commissioned by local authorities, but often includes a small element of care or supervision, exempting the property from Local Housing Allowance (LHA), hence the ‘exempt’ part of the term.
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This allows greedy landlords to make as much money as possible, transform family homes, often large houses, into shared accommodation to house multiple occupants who are often vulnerable. A lack of regulation and oversight for this form of accommodation has allowed landlords to make huge profits while living conditions are poor and support for tenants has been lacking.
These HMO’s have changed the face of the communities they are in with areas getting an influx of people being crammed into nearby houses, who often also come with unfortunate issues. Over time these areas have become less safe and houses are occasionally wrecked, bringing an area down.
Birmingham has seen an explosion in exempt accommodation with the total number of exempt accommodation going from 3,679 claimants in 2014 to 21,179 in 2022. In 2018/19 £73 million was spent on exempt accommodation which has risen to £192 million in 2021.
Supported housing is often done badly with little oversight and examples including one vulnerable woman sharing accommodation with convicted sex offenders.
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There seems to be little oversight in making sure the mix of tenants are appropriate with it being more of a money making scheme for landlords and an easy quick fix for the local authority to make up for the lack of proper housing. All at the expense of the vulnerable, and our Birmingham communities.
An inquiry was launched on exempt accommodation in which many issues were raised. There is an oversupply with many landlords trying to make a quick buck and supply is greater than demand. There is an over concentration of exempt accommodation in certain areas meaning that the makeup of communities is drastically changing with people having to deal with convicted criminals and potential drug users as neighbours. People may be sympathetic, but communities are struggling to deal with these issues without proper support. Increases in crime and anti-social behaviour around exempt accommodation has also been reported.
There is clearly a need for tighter regulation so that exempt accommodation does not continue to be a money making scheme for greedy landlords and that they take their responsibility seriously to help the vulnerable. Local authorities need to take responsibility and make sure that the community does not suffer due to this policy.
Written by Jack Dixon
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