Earlier this year we held a members’ meeting and strategy day at which we asked the question ‘Are the Homes for Cathy commitments still workable and relevant?’. The answer to the question was a resounding ‘yes’, with both our members and stakeholders concluding that the commitments remain as applicable now as when they were introduced in consultation with Crisis in 2018. However, feedback from attendees was that the wording of some of the commitments could be improved and additional objectives included to reflect best practice. In response, we have refreshed the commitments to incorporate the following recommendations:
- If housing associations are improving on Commitment 2 around flexible allocations, Commitment 3 around solutions for people who are not eligible for an offer of a home is not needed. Commitment 3 may also duplicate the responsibilities of local authorities. Instead, the onus should be on housing associations working with their local authority partners to remove barriers to accessing housing associations properties that disadvantage some applicants.
- Moreover, by monitoring refusals, housing associations can gauge their performance on Commitment 2.
- The pledge under Commitment 4 to not make homeless any tenant who wants to prevent their homelessness should go hand in hand with tenancy support.
- The phrase ‘vulnerable tenant groups’ in Commitment 5 is stigmatising – rather than being vulnerable, some people experiencing homelessness are disadvantaged and underserved by existing policy and practice.
- Positive action is needed to address inequality, discrimination and the over-representation of minority ethnic groups in the homeless population, including migrants.
- People moving from homelessness need to be able to make their property a ‘home’, rather than ‘ready to move into’ – the latter phrase is too open to interpretation.
- Services and policies need to be designed in co-production with those with lived experience.
The new Homes for Cathy commitments we are proposing are:
- To contribute to the development and execution of the homelessness strategies of local and combined authorities.
- To work in partnership to provide a range of affordable housing options which meet the needs of all homeless people in their local communities.
- To work with local authorities and others to understand and remove the barriers that disadvantage some applicants with a background of homelessness from accessing Housing Association properties.
- To operate flexible allocations and eligibility policies which allow individual applicants’ unique set of circumstances and housing history to be considered and monitor refusals to benchmark performance.
- To understand the inequalities that result in the over-representation of ethnic minorities among people affected by homelessness and commit to meeting the needs of ethnic minority groups, including migrants.
- To not make any tenant who is engaging with their landlord homeless, by offering support to maintain at risk tenancies.
- To design policies and service provision in co-production with people who have lived experience of homelessness and other stakeholders.
- To ensure that new tenants moving out of homelessness have the essential furniture, flooring and other household items they need to make their property a home.
- To lobby, challenge and inspire others to work to end homelessness.
We are asking our members and stakeholders to complete this survey to gather feedback on the changes to the commitments. Please complete the survey by Friday 28 July 2023.
The feedback will help us to ensure that the commitments remain a workable framework for our member housing associations to challenge themselves to do more to end homelessness and by which their Boards can hold them to account.