Housing

Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

30 May 2019

We are excited to announce that we’ve been selected to be a member of the London Housing Panel, which will bring together voluntary and community-led organisations to engage with housing issues facing London.

Delivered by Trust for London and the Mayor of London, panel members will come together to explore a wide range of housing issues and perspectives from homelessness to the private rented sector, low-income Londoners to social housing; and to help influence policy pledges and priorities.

The panel is comprised of 15 London-based organisations – from homelessness to equalities groups – providing services, representation or carrying out advocacy work in relation to housing. These include Generation Rent, Homeless link, Solace Women’s Aid and other important members.

Director of panel member Kineara, Maria Morgan, said: “We are very excited to be part of this important new initiative, which brings community representation into housing policy decision making. We look forward to working with the London Housing Panel and the Mayor towards inclusive housing policies for all Londoners.”

As we’ve delivered our housing services, our core focus has been in supporting vulnerable people to sustain tenancies and avoid eviction. Through holistic and tailored support, our experienced practitioners work closely with families and individuals facing challenges times and/or with multi-complex needs. We’ve recently launched our new Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+), based on our proven model of holistic and intensive practice that has seen a 92% success rate of preventing evictions for social housing tenants – find out more about our work and impact on our website.

We are looking forward to sharing our experiences within housing and working collaboratively with other organisations on housing related issues. As an organisation, one of our aims is to influence wider policy on housing, welfare and other social issues that impact the communities we work with; we believe this is a great opportunity for us to help influence policy pledges and priorities by providing our expertise.

Read the full press release.

Find out more about our housing services.

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
How housing affects our health

How housing affects our health

Rujia first visited Kerri in her home last October, when she arranged to meet her family to talk about how she could support Kerri into work. Kerri’s landlord had referred her to Kineara’s intensive employment support programme as she had been out of work since suffering a stroke in 2006. With 3 children and unable to work, she struggled to cover costs for the family.

When Rujia entered the flat, though, it was not Kerri who greeted her first. Instead, the first thing that she noticed was the thick, stale and acrid smell of mould and damp that had filled the air inside the small two bedroom flat.

For several months, mould had been growing on the bathroom wall and had begun creeping through the shared walls with the children’s bedroom. Fungus had started to form in the corners, leaving the air thick and making it difficult to breathe. In the living room, cracks in the walls meant that water streamed down the paint onto the carpet, leaving the whole room cold, damp and unliveable. And yet, living with these conditions was, Kerri believed, the only option.

How our home affects our health

Since Kineara began delivering housing support services, we’ve witnessed housing conditions facing many social and private tenants that were simply unfit for habitation. Damp and mould are common problems in older housing where ventilation is poor, and the issue is particularly prevalent in the private sector where a third of properties do not meet basic health and safety standards. The standard covers more than damp and mould however, and includes issues of warmth and structural safety, infestations, having the right facilities and overcrowding.

For families living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, poor quality housing is taking its toll on both physical and mental health. The National Housing Federation estimates that the health effects of poor housing is costing up to £2 billion per year in treatment. Poor conditions can lead to a host of health concerns, from asthma, wheezing, headaches and respiratory illness caused by damp and mould, to tuberculosis and meningitis which spread far more easily in overcrowded conditions. Hazards, fire and accidents are also more common in poorly built and maintained homes, and are more likely to happen in more deprived neighbourhoods. Poor housing can impact long term health too, increasing the risk of long term illness or disability by 25% during childhood.

Mental health and housing insecurity

It is not just the conditions of a home, however, that can have a negative impact on a person’s health. Housing insecurity, risks of homelessness and evictions, or unaffordable housing costs have all been shown to impact mental health in acute ways, especially when we consider how housing connects to a person or family’s financial stability. In the UK, an additional 3.1 million people are in poverty once housing costs have been paid, with one million of those being in London. In the private rented sector, 18% of tenants are in poverty before housing costs are paid; this figure increases to 38% once housing costs are paid. In part this is because rental prices have risen far more quickly and far higher than wages. In over half on English districts, rents reach a third of local average full time pay; this increased to more than half average full time pay In London. And when you are living in the midst of the stress caused by poverty, it is much more of a challenge to make healthy choices and get access to adequate healthcare. High housing costs can also prevent families from meeting their basic needs, such as energy bills or buying enough and healthy food, which in turn worsens ill health.

Lastly, there is also an important connection between mental health and debt, such as rent arrears. Shelter’s 2017 nationwide survey found that 1 in 5 adults have suffered mental health issues (depression, anxiety, stress, sleeping problems) in the last 5 years due to housing problems, many of whom sought support from local GPs. In this study, the most frequently cited reason for mental ill health was lack of affordability.

Prioritising a healthy home

For Rujia, it was immediately clear that to support Kerri back into to work that was not only suitable for her time and capacity as a mother and build her aspirations, but that the damp and mould in her home were cleaned up as a matter of urgency. Rujia raised the issue with Kerri’s landlord, Southern Housing Group, advocating for repairs to be taken out in the flat. The family have been moved into temporary accommodation while the work takes place. She made sure that Kerri and her children were all registered with the local GP. For Kerri, it was the first step in making sure that her and her family’s health and wellbeing was a priority.

Our housing support

At Kineara, all our support services include housing support. We offer advice, guidance, and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more. We know that for anyone to lead a happy, healthy life, having a secure home to rest your head and spend time with family and loved ones, it is the most important thing.

To find out more about our housing support, contact us or read more about how we have supported others.

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, Housing, Latest
Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

 

We attended a recent conference in London exploring how housing effects our health, and how we can come together to fix the broken system. Our practitioner Sandra Axell reports back.

‘Bad housing makes us sick’ was a housing conference put together by Homes for All, Doctors Unite and Unite Housing Workers in London last Saturday. More than 100 people, including housing campaigners, doctors and health workers, trade union members and tenant representatives came together to share ideas and inspire new action plans. The brilliant guest speakers gave us all food for thought and below we share a summary of the topics that were discussed.

How the financialisation of housing is a global crisis

Raquel Rolnik, professor of urban planning at University of Sao Paulo, suggests that housing has moved on from being a valued

Raquel Rolnik

as a human right to being viewed as a commodity that is financially motivated. In the 1980’s both Thatcher in the UK and Regan in the US introduced schemes to sell off houses in public ownership; in the UK the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme gave council tenants an opportunity to buy their home, but as more and more housing has gone into private hands new social housing has not been built, leading to many countries having a rental market that has become a ‘finance playground’.

Watch Raquel Rolnik’s speech here.

Journalist Dawn Foster, who writes for the Guardian newspaper among others, highlighted that the Conservative Government’s recent ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, which was also put in place to encourage more home ownership, has been hijacked by large house building companies have used government subsidies to pay out big bonuses rather than lowering the house prices. Research show that the market prices was pushed up with as much as the government discount paid out, meaning that essentially, rather than make house prices more affordable, the cost has remained the same for the buyer and the profit has gone to the house builders.

In addition, the gap between rent and wages are growing. According to Shelter, between 2011 and 2017 the average rent increased by 16% nationally while wages only increased by 10%. But there are exceptions where the divide is much larger. In Barking and Dagenham, the wages in the same period only went up by 2%, but rents increased by 40%. The new benefits cap of £20,000 a year means that 97% of 2-bedroom properties on the privately rented market are unaffordable.

Dawn Foster

The panelists agreed that it is time to begin viewing housing as a human right again, and that to provide stable and secure housing for families, we should be focused on building more social housing and introducing rent controls. This is not only the ethical approach, but an affordable one: When the government invests in building social housing for everyone, in about 5-10 years the dwelling has paid for itself and the tenants rent payments go back into the accounts of local authorities, instead of to private landlords. Meanwhile, rent controls and longer tenancies within the private sector offers security to both landlords and renters, and prevents bigger landlords using the market as an investment and pushing up prices. This supports smaller landlords who have homes to rent and need the security of long term rent payments and tenancies.

Health in housing

Dr Jackie Applebee from Doctors Unite spoke about how bad housing is affecting health. Studies have suggested that homelessness can reduce life expectancy by 30 years and poor accommodation and living in poverty has a severe impact on life expectancy as well. People in temporary housing and social housing are often living in overcrowded conditions due to shortage of suitable properties. The lack of social housing or affordable housing means that people have to move more often, sometimes several times a year. Every time a household is relocated, they lose contact with their community and the support network that is available to them. Therefore, moving from a property affects social relationships and has a negative impact on mental health.

Terminus in Harlow is one example of how overcrowding affects mental and physical health. The 14 stories 1960’s office block has been turned into housing without needing planning permission. The very small rooms are filled with families and single residents from councils in and around London and they are often may miles away from places and people that they know. Crime has risen in the area with around 40% since the tower block was converted and families are scared to let their children out of the room. Therefore, there is no place for the children to play or do homework, and the adults have got no privacy. Jackie, who works as a GP in Whitechapel, has seen the impact that overcrowding has on health. She says that sharing a small space is likely to lead to infections as conditions spread easily, leaving people are more prone to illnesses.

Next, Hannah Slater from Generation Rent spoke about how the insecurity of the private rented market is another factor that can affect mental health. The private rented market is growing due to a shortage of council houses, along with a steep rise in houses prices that are forcing more people to rent. The Royal London suggests that half the children born in the UK are starting their lives in rented accommodation. Most tenancy contracts are ‘Assorted Shorthold Leases’ with only a 6 month agreement. And under Section 21 rules, the landlords can evict the tenant after the agreement has ended without providing a reason. This leads to families having to relocate, losing the community that they have created, as well as their relationship with healthcare professionals and services around them. Biomarkers used in a study have indicated that people living in rented accommodation have higher level of stress chemicals in their blood compared to home owners.

Figures show that a third of private rented properties fail basic health and safety checks due to problems with, for example, damp and mould. But Section 21 means that tenants do not have any security, and they avoid making any complaints about the property as they face being evicted if they do.

Due to the increasing number of private renters, political parties have started to take notice of housing campaigns as private renters now represent a large part of their constituency. The Mayor of London has promised to abolish Section 21, and the Labour Party has added it to their manifesto after pressure from campaigners. Another suggestion to increase the security for private renters is to have a national register of landlords and for Councils to have more control of licensing schemes that they apply for.

Coming together for action

The conference agreed on a few points of action that the difference groups and movements could work towards together. They included things like:

  • Supporting and building the 15th June ‘Grenfell – Never Again’ protest march in
    central London.
  • Ensuring housing rights are enacted and reinforced, backed by a strengthened independent tenant organisation.
  • Calling for an enforceable right to repairs for all tenants, linked to a
    regular inspection regime.
  • Advocating for grant funding for existing and new council housing.
  • Campaigning around connected issues such as Universal Credit, bringing empty properties into use, reducing temporary accommodation, the sale of public land and investment in the NHS.
  • Backing the Charter for Housing Action in 2019 and extend the alliance for action.
Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
Evictions and vulnerability in the private sector: Time for supportive solutions

Evictions and vulnerability in the private sector: Time for supportive solutions

This week, as we launch our new programme of support for private tenants, we reflect on rising vulnerability in the sector.

 

We know that a secure place to call home is essential for maintaining wellbeing. It provides the foundation for family life, personal wellbeing and work or educational opportunities. It is a place to rest, to recuperate, to raise children, and to gather with friends. It is enshrined as an international human right because of the intrinsic importance of shelter to our lives and our survival.

And yet, 21st century Britain does not guarantee this right. In the last 15 years, homelessness has exploded to record levels, effecting an increasingly broad segment of society and including many people in work and who are still unable to cover housing costs. As rental prices have surged and social or genuinely affordable housing is in short supply, it is the generally unstable, insecure and expensive private sector that is now housing low income, vulnerable people. The growth of the sector is what has contributed to the 100 evictions that are happening each day across the country.

However, the capacity of the sector as it is currently managed to provide secure, safe, quality and affordable living environments is still in question, despite many local authorities relying on private landlords to house their vulnerable residents. Local Housing Allowance has been cut since 2011 and frozen altogether since 2016, meaning it doesn’t come close to covering rents. In London, this means an average shortfall of £50 a week, and outside of London, £26 a week. This is having a compounded effect in a sector where there is reluctance to rent to housing benefit recipients in the first place.

Eviction from a privately rented home is also now the most cited reason for homelessness acceptances, and the quality and conditions of private rented homes at the bottom end of the sector is poor, bringing with it a host of health and wellbeing minefields that impact children and already vulnerable people disproportionately. There are also calls from landlords for access to information and support, with surveys in some parts of the country revealing two thirds of them have tenants with mental health problems that need support, and many of those landlords said they needed a place to find guidance. There is a growing movement of campaigners, advocates, policy makers and professionals calling for an end to short and insecure tenancies and stopping “No to DSS” practices, increased regulation through licensing and rent controls in the private sector.

What this means for vulnerable people

But while those policy changes are essential, it is also important that vulnerable people currently living in the sector have access to support. While registered housing providers in the social sector have a statutory responsibility to protect vulnerable adults (or ‘adults at risk’) under the Care Act 2014, in line with local authorities’ legal duties on housing the homeless or preventing homelessness, there is no such responsibility on the part of private landlords. In addition, since 2010, cuts to public services have bored a hole through the fabric of our communities, meaning that there are fewer places, whether local authority or community based services, to find advice or guidance during what is an extremely stressful experience.

And depending on definitions, who is deemed ‘vulnerable’ is rather expanded in the context of housing. Julie Rugg’s recent update to her review on the private rented sector, published at the end of last year, uses a broad definition of vulnerability to include households with dependent children, recent migrants, people with long-term sickness or disability, households in receipt of benefits, and households with residents over 65. This is an expanded definition which see’s ‘vulnerability’ as something largely inevitable at some point during the life course, and something that can happen to many people during their life as a consequence of any number of incidents that adversely affect a household’s income, like falling ill, or being made redundant.

What can we do?

RSP+ has been developed to tackle these issues by building partnerships with local authorities and their local landlords to find alternatives to evictions before they happen. This idea has been brewing for some time, and came into being after we participated in the Young Foundation’s brilliant ReimaginingRent programme, which support initiatives tackling challenges in the private sector.

The model works like this: Over 10 weeks, we work with vulnerable tenants with multi-complex needs to find a route away from eviction, whether the cause of the threat is a Section 21 notice, high rent arrears or other hidden challenges. We use holistic approaches to tackle the causes behind the causes, focusing on strengths, building confidence and community connection, and coupling emotional health with practical support. This means our practitioners can make a lasting difference in people’s lives, all the while avoiding the emotional, social and financial cost of eviction.

As private sector landlords are a varied group, it is often difficult for councils to have a full understanding of the sector, the standards of the housing on offer, and whether the rights and needs of tenants are being supported. So, RSP+ offers local authorities a route to greater understanding, communication and integrated working between councils and landlords for their residents.

You can find out more about the Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+) on our website.

Partner with us

If you are from a local authority in London or the south east and would like to know more about the support, contact us for more information: info@kineara.co.uk // 020 3976 1450

Posted by kineara in Housing, Latest
Tenancy support programme to prevent evictions of vulnerable renters launches this week

Tenancy support programme to prevent evictions of vulnerable renters launches this week

Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+) brings holistic support to tenants in private housing

Kineara is excited to announce the launch of our new intensive support programme to prevent evictions of vulnerable people from private rented housing.

Rent Support Programme Plus, or RSP+, is a new offer based on tested techniques of intensive and holistic practice that had had proven success for social housing tenants. Now, Kineara has re-developed its existing rent support models for tenants in the private sector.

We’ve been delivering housing support to adults and families with multi-complex needs since 2013. Our flagship programme, the Rent Support Programme, used a 10-week programme of intensive, holistic support, working with social housing tenants to resolve rent arrears, avoid eviction and stabilise their tenancy. The model proved so successful, we knew that we wanted to be able to offer the same kind of service to tenants in the private sector.

A recent survey of landlords in Wales by Chartered Institute of Housing revealed the extent of the crisis in private rented housing, with over two thirds of landlords saying they have tenants with mental health needs and that there was not enough information about accessing mental health services. We also know that housing stability impacts the health and wellbeing of renters. The report concluded that early intervention was key for sustaining tenancies and local authorities need to provide more guidance and information of services that both landlords and tenants can turn to.

RSP+ aims to be one such service – a tailored programme that works with the needs of the tenants, builds communication between tenant and landlord, and provides tools and guidance to overcome barriers that have been threatening the tenancy. It uses a holistic understanding of how adversities intersect to create vulnerability, getting to the root cause of the issues, and brings tenants and landlords into communication. This means that landlords can avoid the costly eviction process, and tenants can remain in their homes.

The programme is an addition to the range of support programmes that we provide with and for housing providers, local authorities and schools. It brings in specialised whole family and strength-based approaches, designed to build resilience and empower people over their own lives.

RSP+ will be delivered in partnership with local authorities, and has been designed to bring housing teams in local councils together with their local landlords in a effort to integrate meaningful support for vulnerable local residents regardless of what kind of tenancy they live in.

To deliver this is novel project, we want partner with innovative local authorities who want to make a difference in the lives of their local residents as well as support landlords in their borough to offer sustainable tenancies for those who most need it.

If you are from a local authority in London or the south east and would like to know more about the support, contact us for more information: msinghji@kineara.co.uk // 020 3976 1450

Find out more about our other programmes and recent successes.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Latest
We are hiring!

We are hiring!

We are excited to be recruiting for 3 new practitioners to join our growing team to take on varied, intensive support work in our educational and housing support programmes.

The purpose of the role is to provide a mixture of individual and group interventions with individuals and families with additional and complex needs, up to the threshold for social care involvement, to support the delivery of Kineara main programmes. The objectives of these programmes are to avoid evictions, improve tenancy security, increase employment opportunities, improve wellbeing and increase educational outcomes. You will be working in partnership with other stakeholders such as schools and housing associations to improve family health, build relationships and engage families and individuals and their networks of support.

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated and hands-on practitioner with excellent interpersonal skills who is able to work sensitively with vulnerable people from all backgrounds.

Find out more on our vacancy page.

Posted by kineara in Education, Housing, Latest
Young Foundation meets Maria to talk #ReimaginingRent

Young Foundation meets Maria to talk #ReimaginingRent

Kineara’s director Maria Morgan recently sat down to talk to the Young Foundation about Reimagining Rent, the organisation’s new and unique programme designed to support the development of new ideas and solutions to the challenges facing tenants in the private rented sector.

The programme has been an opportunity to rethink how Kineara’s Rent Support Programme could work with and for tenants in private rented homes, many of whom are vulnerable and where evictions, insecurity and rising costs are impacting the wellbeing of so many.

Tell me a bit about Kineara, what do you do and what makes you unique?

Well, the name Kineara is a combination of two words that encompasses where we come from and the ethos we work within: Kin, denoting family and putting family first, and Eara, a Gaelic term meaning from the East, which refers to our beginnings in the east of London.

Kineara logo

What we do is intensive but purposeful. We work with families and individuals, providing holistic support and helping to mobilise services around them. We aim to establish meaningful connections between them and the services they need, whether they be related to housing, education or employment so that once Kineara has left we can ensure that the change is sustainable.

Since setting up in 2012, we’ve supported nearly one hundred households to stay in their homes and avoid eviction with our Rent Support Programme.

And what were you doing before you started Kineara? What inspired you to set it up?

I’m a social worker by trade. I left social work to work on a Family Intervention Project programme, 12-14 month intensive whole intervention programme, with Tower Hamlets Council. I was attracted to the programme because it reminded me of what social work is supposed to be about; being hands-on and out there and facilitating real change in behaviour.

It’s that project which inspired Kineara. It came from a chat with my manager at the time, Nikki Bradley and Andrea Baker (Poplar Harca), about creating a shorter intervention looking specifically at rent arrears, I went away from that conversation and created the RSP (Rent Support Programme).

We trialled the programme in 2011 and it seemed to work. Most people had paid back some if not all of their rent arrears. Due to the success of RSP, we decided to roll it out into a social enterprise, adapting the project to create a shorter term, 10-week form of family intervention to try to avoid housing tenants getting into rent arrears.

Although at the time I didn’t have any experience in business, in 2012 I become the Director of Kineara and it became its own entity in 2012 and was made into a viable social enterprise. The Bromley by Bow Centre’s Beyond Business Programme, supported us to develop the idea, write a business plan and pitch the idea to investors. Of the hundreds that apply to the programme every year, Kineara was shortlisted and given £10,000 to get the project off the ground.

What have been some of the biggest challenges for you personally, and for the organisation, so far?

I really value and appreciate grant funding. It is important that social enterprises and charities have access to financial support to work with society most complex challenges. Organisations like Kineara, that help support and empower people, who in turn help strengthen their own communities is how you sustain growth in every capacity.

However, I didn’t want Kineara to be solely dependent on grants, and developing a social enterprise that isn’t, can be challenging. But if you want something to last you need to think of ways to become more self-reliant. This is an on-going journey for Kineara.

So is your ambition to scale Kineara?

We’re still working in Tower Hamlets and in Hackney with our education programme. But we’re now also working with Southern Housing Group who have houses all over London. We’re branching out year by year.

We ultimately want the Rent Support Programme to run across the country. We want it to be in minds of housing associations and private landlords that evictions are costly and that this intervention can be both cost-saving as well as helping to tackle the homelessness crisis.

 

 

You can read the blog in full on the Young Foundation’s website.

 

 

Posted by kineara in Housing

Sustainability of the RSP begins to show: Creating long term change with short term interventions

The long term benefits of our Rent Support Programme are beginning to be revealed though recent post-intervention monitoring.

We carried out a 6-month follow up meeting with five of residents of City of London housing who took part in the programme between October 2014 and February 2015 to find out how their situation had changed, whether their well-being had improved and to see if they were continuing to pay back their arrears and sustain their tenancy.

All five had remained in their home and there was no immediate threat of eviction. In four cases, arrears had continued to decrease and they were sticking with the repayment plan agreed with the Kineara worker.  Two had cleared their arrears completely by the 6 month check; one of those had arrears of £2125 at the start of the intervention. And another was one instalment away from being in credit.

Continue reading →

Posted by kineara in Housing, Impact, Latest

Kineara’s Maria Morgan speaks at forum on welfare changes and social housing

It was fantastic to have Kineara’s managing director Maria Morgan speak at Westminster Briefing’s forum on supporting tenants through welfare reform in central London last week. She joined members of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and housing professionals raised concerns about how sweeping welfare changes will impact tenants.

Organised by Westminster Briefing, speakers gave examples of projects that housing associations and independent organisations are running to mitigate the risks of arrears as vulnerable tenants manage the move from housing benefit to Universal Credit. Aside from Kineara’s RSP, it was great to hear about how Hyde Plus’ project for young people, the Money House, is providing training on tenancy sustainment, money advice and budgeting.

Thank you to Westminster Briefing for inviting us to take part in the event.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Latest

Bringing RSP to the private sector

At Kineara we have created flexible programmes so that they can be adapted to suit the changing needs of our clients. This flexibility is important to us, as it means we can adjust some details of our work while keeping true to our core beliefs – that all people deserve a decent home.

So with this in mind, we have decided to take our Rent Support Programme to the private sector for landlords who have tenants in arrears and want to support them through it while keeping their tenancy intact.

Continue reading →

Posted by kineara in Housing, Latest