Housing First vs. housing Court
With a potential housing court still being discussed, in amongst the court reform programme, we examine the implications for some of the most vulnerable users of the would be system.
Housing First is an international evidence-based approach that uses independent, stable housing as a stepping stone to allow individuals experiencing multiple disadvantage to begin recovery and move away from homelessness. The Housing First services generally target those with long-term experiences of homelessness, high rates of mental health problems and drug/alcohol misuse, as well as other support needs.
investigating how the Housing First services found:
- 100% of the services said that ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ of their residents had a mental health issue, either diagnosed or undiagnosed
- 96% of services said that ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ of their residents had a substance misuse issue
- 88% of services reported that ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ of their residents had been in contact with the criminal justice system
- 75% of services reported that ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ of their residents had experienced violence or abuse
- 67% of services said that ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ of their residents had a physical health issue
The report highlights the obstacles Housing First faces in securing housing for these vulnerable groups including:
- The barrier between Housing First and landlords as many Housing First residents are often excluded from social housing because of previous anti-social behaviour or rent arrears.
- Limited access to social housing and delays in securing accommodation.
- The insecurity of tenure and poor conditions of some private rented accommodation.
- The need for more funding towards Housing First services.
The findings from the report are particularly interesting considering the recent Government consultations on the proposed new housing court. A separate court would be an attempt to resolve the current procedural delays and system failures that often infiltrate housing claims. The Government consultations have indicated that current delays are due to insufficient court staff, court closures and insufficient judicial time being spent handling Litigant in Person claims.
However, the Law Society has urged the Government to reconsider and instead focus their attention on improving the current redress system in the private rental sector. The increase in the number of litigants in person has increased pressure on the courts and has ultimately led to delays in the court process, especially with the rise of housing advice deserts. The Law Society has suggested the availability and accessibility of Housing courts across England, would compound the housing advice desert dilemma and be ill equipped to support the needs of the vulnerable groups helped by Housing First.
The Civil Justice Council have also critiqued the new government proposal, arguing that money would be better spent elsewhere rather than on a court designed to provide a single path of redress for landlords and tenants. The Housing Link report has highlighted the current barriers that exist between landlords and tenants that a single housing court could have the potential to increase.