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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Tackling homelessness through Rapid Rehousing


Following the publication of the final recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG), CIH Scotland’s policy and practice manager Ashley Campbell takes a look at one of the key recommendations around Rapid Rehousing and Housing First.

The final recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) were published last week and all were accepted in principle by the Scottish Government. Focus will now switch to implementation which could radically change our approach to homelessness in Scotland.

One of the key recommendations from the Group is a swift transition to a Rapid Rehousing approach, including Housing First where appropriate. HARSAG has recommended that all local authorities should develop a Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan by the end of the year and the Scottish Government has committed £21 million from the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund to support a move towards Rapid Rehousing over the next two years.

Social Bite also recently launched a £3 million fund in partnership with Glasgow Homeless Network and the Corra Foundation to provide Housing First to 800 people across Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee.

But what exactly is Rapid Rehousing, how does it differ from Housing First and what are local authorities being asked to do now?

The HARSAG recommendations emphasise the need for prevention of homelessness whenever possible but recognise that in some cases it cannot be avoided and there will always be some need for temporary accommodation. Rapid Rehousing should be the default position for all households that do become homeless and have low or no support needs. Rapid Rehousing means:

  • A settled, mainstream housing outcome as quickly as possible;
  • Time spent in any form of temporary accommodation reduced to a minimum, with the fewer transitions the better; and
  • When temporary accommodation is needed, the optimum type is mainstream, furnished and within a community.

The Rapid Rehousing approach will require a move away from the ‘tenancy readiness’ culture and language and removal of barriers to accessing some social housing such as rent in advance or requiring detailed tenancy histories. Where support needs are identified, these should be addressed in the person’s own settled home. For households with multiple and complex needs, Housing First should be offered.

Housing First was developed in New York during the 1990s. It is targeted at people who have multiple and complex needs such as mental health issues, drug or alcohol misuse and usually those who are, or have been, sleeping rough. It allows people to move straight into permanent accommodation. Once housed, intensive, unconditional and open ended support is provided to help address health issues and support the person to stay in their home.  

You can find examples of Housing First in practice and links to further information in our guide, Housing First in the UK and Ireland.

Guidance for local authorities, detailed Market Area Analysis and a Rapid Rehousing transition tool have been published to support the development of local five year Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans. It is anticipated that if the plans are implemented successfully, the volume of temporary accommodation and length of stay will be significantly reduced across Scotland over the next five years.

While the ambition of the approach must be applauded, some crucial questions remain and the transition will clearly be challenging. The market area analysis sets out some stark figures:

  • During 2016/17, local authorities had a duty to house 25,125 homeless households.
  • Almost 11,000 households were living in temporary accommodation, an increase of 161% since 2003.
  • Of those who where provided with settled accommodation, 17,476 households were housed in the social rented sector (92%) and 1,395 in the private rented sector (8%).
  • Moving to a Rapid Rehousing model would mean increasing lets to homeless households by 45% across the social and private rented sectors.
  • If all need was to be met within the social housing sector, 52% of all social lets across Scotland would have to be made to homeless households.
  • Currently an average of 41% of all local authority lets and 26% of RSL lets are made to homeless households, although figures vary significantly across Scotland. 

In developing transition plans, local authorities will need to consider:

  • How to balance the needs of homeless households with those who have other needs.
  • How choice can be maintained while attempting to move people out of temporary accommodation much more quickly.
  • How to involve partners and ensure that everyone is on board with the new approach.
  • How support services will be provided and funded, especially for those with complex needs.
  • How staff will be supported to change ways of working.

Crucially, if more people are going to be rehoused into permanent, mainstream housing faster, more social housing will need to be made available to let to homeless households and this will require strong partnership working between local authorities and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). The question of support provision is also complex. The market analysis states that:

Based on the consultation findings, the availability of specialist wraparound support is probably the most critical issue that will shape the success or failure of a rapid rehousing approach. 

If this plan is to be successful, we need everyone to work together.

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