A lot of work has taken place to turn Housing Options into the high-performing homelessness and lettings service that it is today. We want to look back on some of the key moments of the last 10 years of Housing Options, and to reflect on where the service is currently at.
Key moments so far:
In April 2012, Barnet Homes takes over the Housing Needs & Resources service from London Borough of Barnet (LBB), and rebrands it as Housing Options. In October 2012, Let2Barnet is launched, our private lettings service that helps housing applicants to find suitable accommodation in the private rented sector. In the past 7 years, Let2Barnet has let 4,735 suitable, affordable homes to housing applicants, preventing many households from needing to move into temporary accommodation.
In August 2013, The Welfare Reform Taskforce (WRTF) is set up. Now rebranded as BOOST, the service provides employment support, training and welfare benefits advice to Barnet residents. In the past 5 years, BOOST have supported almost 2,000 residents into work.
In 2015, Housing Options secured funding to set up our own women’s refuge, and we launched the Domestic Violence and Abuse One Stop Shop in the same year. The One Stop Shop’s multi-agency approach helps survivors of domestic abuse to receive the support that they need all under one roof.
From April 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act requires local authorities to provide homelessness prevention assistance at an early stage, and to help homeless households to obtain accommodation to relieve homelessness where prevention was not possible.In mid 2022, independent auditors concluded that Housing Options is compliant with the new Act, giving the service the highest grade possible.
In 2018, Housing Options developed in-house services for single homeless applicants and created a Rough Sleeper Team who work with partners such as Homeless Action in Barnet and Together in Barnet to provide a range of support services to people who are sleeping rough.
From 2020, the service continued to support housing applicants during the pandemic – working from home and in the office in a Covid-secure way, and housing rough sleepers safely through the government’s ‘Everyone in’ initiative.
Where we are now?
This is a challenging time for residents and for local authorities. We are seeing an increase in applications for housing assistance, due to the cost-of-living crisis, with the courts again processing evictions from the private rented sector, and with international conflicts leading to an increase in refugees who need our help. Additionally, private sector rents have increased by 16% this year, and the supply of properties across London has reduced by 35%, which makes it very difficult for people to afford to live in London.
We are doing our very best to support our residents at this difficult time, by:
- Building and buying more suitable affordable homes – for example by delivering almost 600 homes so far through Opendoor Homes, and spending £1.3m to adapt properties to make them medically suitable for households’ needs.
- Supporting households to move out of temporary accommodation (TA) into longer-term properties. The number of households living in TA is at its lowest level for more than 10 years.
- Bidding successfully for new funding. We have been awarded £7.5m to buy 55 studio properties to support residents who are sleeping rough, and awarded £250k to set up a dedicated Domestic Abuse Team.
- Through our new Customer Experience Strategy, we will focus on improving support for our more vulnerable customers – for example by helping people to engage with our services, and delivering ‘trauma-informed’ training to our frontline staff-members.