Agenda item

Agenda item

Oxford Rent Guarantee Scheme

The City Executive Board, at its meeting on 12 February will consider a report

on the Oxford Rent Guarantee Scheme.


This item provides an opportunity for the Committee to consider the report

and make recommendations to the CEB if it wishes.




Councillor Linda Smith, Board Member for Leisure and Housing said that while dealing with the consequences of homelessness and rough sleeping were a proper Council priority, the need to prevent homelessness in the first place was fundamental.


The Systems Change Manager (Homelessness Prevention), Paul Wilding,said that the Oxford Rent Guarantee (ORG) was a means of supporting those at risk of homelessness. The effectiveness of the previous model which focussed simply on finding possible accommodation  was  compromised by the difficulties of affordability in the City. ORG worked in partnership with landlords for whom, while the rent may be less than the market rate, there was a guaranteed  rental income paid three months in advance. Coaching was provided to tenants as part of the ORG to help them gain future financial independence and better resilience to prevent future homelessness. This important element of the ORG was modelled on the support provided by the Welfare Reform Team.


Over 73 families had benefitted from the pilot and lessons learnt from it had triggered some minor adjustments to existing Council systems.


In discussion it was noted that ORG’s focus had been on families as that was where the Council’s first duty lay. It was agreed that thought should be given to expanding the scheme by making a connection with the Lord Mayor’s Deposit Scheme which supports single people. Accommodation provided through the ORG outside the City was usually within the County and took account of the need for good transport connections with the City. Placements   made out of county were often at the request of individuals who had family connectons elsewhere.  One officer was dedicated to out of area work.


Despite the work of officers to attract more landlords to participate in the scheme, the lack of properties remained the biggest stumbling block to helping more families. The costs of the scheme were counterbalanced by costs which would otherwise be incurred elsewhere, though the committee noted that no formal analysis of this position had been done. Participating landlords signed up to the scheme for 12 months at a time and none had failed to renew at the end of the initial term.


The Committee expressed great concern at the  longer term future of the  Council’s homelessness reserves, and how this might affect delivery of the scheme in future. A paper on the opportunity costs of continuing to pursue the scheme or not would be welcome.


The introduction of Universal Credit touched on this matter as well as many others. It was agreed that the suggestion of a review group to look at the consequences of its introduction should be noted in advance  for consideration as part of the next council year’s Committee’s Work Plan.


The Chair thanked the Board Member and the Systems Change Manager for their contribution to the discussion following which the Committee would make a recommendation to the City Executive Board that the scheme should be expanded to better align with the Lord Mayor’s Deposit Scheme and the needs of single people at risk of homelessness. The Committee would also register concern at the scheme’s apparent dependence on Council’s homelessness reserves.


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