Government supports Capital Letter’s hunt for housing

The Government has confirmed funding of £14.1m for Capital Letters for a further two years, showing its continuing commitment to tackling family homelessness in London and Capital Letters.

Eddie Hughes, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, announced the grant renewal at a Capital Letters conference today (6 July 2022), when he underlined the not-for-profit company’s role in the government strategy to tackle family homelessness.

Around 4000 homeless families have found homes in the private rented sector through Capital Letters since it procured the first property three years ago.

By working collectively through Capital Letters, the member councils have access to more properties across London, enabling them to house more families and make savings on their homelessness costs. An independent review of Capital Letters by the London School of Economics in 2021 highlighted the £15,000 a year cost of maintaining a family in temporary accommodation.

Raising standards in the private rented sector

With social and affordable housing in short supply in London, councils have been finding an increasing proportion of the homes they need to house families in the private rented sector. Capital Letters ensures that these properties meet the quality and safety standards agreed by the councils, which will be essential after the decent homes standard applies to the private rented sector.

Sue Coulson, Chief Executive of Capital Letters, said:

“By working collectively with Capital Letters, our member councils are driving up standards in the PRS, reducing costs, and increasing the supply of affordable homes for homeless families across London. We are improving the experience for both tenants and landlords, with the private rented sector as a key element of members’ homelessness reduction strategies.”

“As more London councils join Capital Letters, collectively we have a greater influence on the housing market. Landlords have easy access to tenants from councils across London, while councils can significantly reduce the cost of homelessness provision. Together we are creating more opportunities for more families to move out of temporary accommodation and settle into a secure and safe home.”

Tenancy sustainment service supports new tenants

Capital Letters also provides a free tenancy sustainment service for both tenants and landlords to ensure the tenancy has the best chance of success, including helping with new benefit claims, setting up utilities and sign-posting households to other services.

Around 80% of the families housed in a property secured through Capital Letters accept the offer of support; in 2021/22 the company secured over £750,000 for 300 families through grants and back-dated benefits.

Capital Letters is now developing new services to increase housing supply and making letting to families referred by councils more attractive to private landlords. Planned services include rent collection and protection, bonds and property management, which reduces the risk of arrears and reassures landlords that their property is looked after.

The company is developing independent sources of income to replace the current grant when it ceases in 2024 to ensure that services for homeless families continue long-term. Capital Letters is negotiating with property portfolio investors and intends to become a landlord itself, supplying more PRS properties for member boroughs.

Cllr Darren Rodwell,  Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning at London Councils, said:

“Capital Letters is a crucial part of boroughs’ pan-London approach to tackling the homelessness crisis.

“Since its launch, Capital Letters has improved boroughs’ access to accommodation options and – most importantly – secured better outcomes for the homeless Londoners who rely on us for housing help.

“We’re pleased the government is continuing its funding support for Capital Letters. This is important recognition of Capital Letters’ impact and a valuable boost to boroughs’ collaborative work in support of homeless Londoners.”