Housing First FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Housing First.

One size fits all approaches generally don’t work. Instead, Housing First is a highly personalised approach that ends people’s homelessness with housing rapidly. It also assigns a highly trained support worker to get alongside the new tenant to make settling into their new home easier. 

Who is Housing First for?

Housing First will be the first response for people whose homelessness is experienced alongside other severe and multiple disadvantage. While everyone’s experiences will be different the common threads include trauma, abuse, addictions, mental ill health and experience of local authority care and prison. It is estimated that this affects around 5,700 people in Scotland, across a single year. 

How are tenancies allocated for Housing First? 

Tenancies used for Housing First are general needs mainstream tenancies and are allocated in line with landlord’s existing allocations policies. Housing First is currently operating successfully in a range of allocations settings including Points Based Allocations systems, Choice Based Lettings and Common Housing Registers. Some landlords may decide to create a specific process or protocol within their own allocations policy for Housing First, but this will be based on local context. Going forward, it is hoped that landlords will work closely with local partners to identify any changes to allocations policy that might be identified. 

What kind of tenancy do Housing First tenants have? 

A Housing First tenancy in the social rented sector is a Scottish Secure Tenancy with all the same protections, conditions and security as any mainstream tenancy. People will be accommodated with a Private Residential Tenancy in the private rented sector. In the normal way, tenancies will be available for as long as someone wants to live there. 

How are people matched with tenancies?  

Local authorities, alongside support providers, are encouraged to develop ‘by-name’ lists of people in their area that have needs beyond housing and whose experience of homelessness may be long-term and/or repeating. This is in line with Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendations and the Scottish Government/COSLA High Level Action Plan. 

As well as area ‘by-name’ lists, straightforward referral processes are being developed to enable people to refer and self-refer into Housing First. Where Housing First is not an appropriate route, rapid rehousing solutions and/or further support should be identified, as per a ‘no wrong door’ approach. Choice is a key principle for Housing First. Local partners work closely with individuals to realistically identify the location and characteristics of a property that they could make a home.

What about tenancy-readiness?  

Housing First works in a new environment which understands that most of us, with the right support, can manage our own home. The means removing ideas of ‘tenancy-readiness’ and giving people a chance and giving people a chance in their own place.

Do tenants have to accept Housing First support? 

No, the tenancy is not conditional on someone engaging with Housing First support. Support providers work to the principles of active engagement and respectful persistence and all cases remain open even when engagement is low. Local partners actively seek to identify what support looks like to an individual and what/ how they are willing to accept.

In reality, most tenants engage with support in a personalised way and the removal of conditionality and focus on choice and control enables people to find what is of most value to them as they settle into their new home. There is no pre-existing support plan for people to follow or set number of hours of support to fulfil. We are using a best-practice maximum caseload of seven tenants per support worker at any one time; this is a key factor in the success of Housing First.

Does Housing First work? 

There is now an overwhelming body of international evidence showing that, with close fidelity to the Housing First principles, the approach delivers: 

– 80% – 90% housing retention rates after two years (with some early projects showing similar retention rates after five years) 

– improving health outcomes 

– decreasing involvement in criminal activity and anti-social behaviour 

– improved cost-effectiveness of service delivery and cost savings 

What if the Housing First tenancy isn’t working? 

Like any tenancy, there are a number of factors that contribute to its success. If the landlord and the support provider have concerns about the sustainability of the tenancy, landlords can make use of existing policies and procedures such as Management Transfers and local nomination agreements to secure a tenancy in an alternative location. The landlord retains the right to end the tenancy in line with their existing policies and procedures and legal obligations. These instances are very rare, and the principles of Housing First ensure that the person will continue to be supported and rehoused. 

What effect does Housing First have on housing waiting lists?

None. The people housed through Housing First are not ‘new’ people being added to existing housing demand. They have always been there with a right to a home and Housing First provides a mechanism for ensuring everyone can quickly access a home and the support they need. 

Many people have struggled to maintain accommodation and have repeatedly accessed different accommodation routes and services. Housing First has been proven to help people maintain tenancies and access appropriate services. This should have a positive impact and free up capacity and time for services

What about supported housing and hostels?

Where Housing First is not the best solution, or mainstream housing isn’t wanted, then the size and quality of shared, supported accommodation is key. Overarching Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans will progress toward smaller, specialist units within a psychologically informed environment. Local Health and Social Care Partnerships will also consider whether those units continue to be part of their local homelessness response, or whether the specialist nature aligns them with broader health and social care strategy and commissioning frameworks.

What is Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder?

The flagship £10 million Pathfinder in Scotland was catalysed by Social Bite in 2018 to accelerate Housing First delivery in six local authority areas including five cities. It is funded by the Scottish Government (<£6.5m), Social Bite (<£3m) and Merchants House Glasgow (£200k). Homeless Network Scotland and Corra Foundation were appointed as Project and Fund Managers. It is a three-year pathfinder 2019-2022.

The multi-agency Pathfinders are scaling up across Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling by March 2021. Homes have been pledged by housing associations and local authorities, with a smaller number pledged by private sector landlords too. 15 services across 5 local consortia were commissioned to deliver the Housing First intensive casework support in line with Housing First principles. The services have a lead organisation in each area (in same order): Aberdeen Cyrenians, Transform Community Development, Cyrenians, Turning Point Scotland and Wheatley Care.

The Pathfinder partnerships are testing how to deliver Housing First at a scale never seen before in Scotland, setting the pace, testing new ways of working and sharing solutions to the challenges and questions that come from changing systems at scale. With a head-start to find the best path, we want to quickly connect their learning and expertise with all other Scottish local authorities preparing to scale up Housing First.

Will Housing First end homelessness in Scotland?

Not on its own, as most people who become homeless have no or low support needs beyond their need for housing. However, any attempt to end homelessness that does not include Housing First will not work for the population in Scotland who are up against the hardest structural, social and economic disadvantage.