Shelter's new scheme expects to provide lifeline for Bristol families

Shelter’s Bristol Hub is piloting a bond scheme in partnership with the Bristol Credit Union that gives homeless families the chance to access private rented sector (PRS) housing.  

These families remain trapped in temporary housing because of their financial difficulties and not being able to compete for PRS accommodation. With the upfront costs of private renting ever increasing, raising £2k for deposits and rent in order to move into the PRS is a hurdle these families are unable to overcome. For them, the scheme could make a world of difference.

What is the scheme?

To overcome the barrier of significant upfront costs to secure homes in the PRS, this bond scheme loans families lump sums to cover the deposit and offers practical support to prevent future financial difficulty.

Importantly, the loan is truly affordable to them and has a low rate of interest, meaning families get a fighting chance to reach financial and housing sustainability.

Who the pilot scheme supports

The pilot bond scheme is open to families deemed ‘intentionally homeless’. These families are stuck in often unsuitable to substandard temporary accommodation and have low incomes. In some cases, they’re in this situation because of rent arrears from previous tenancies. In other circumstances, families have refused an offer of accommodation because it was unsuitable or because they weren’t fully aware of rules around rights of refusal.

PRS is increasingly becoming the only option

With council and social housing stock in Bristol in high demand, the PRS increasingly offers the only practical solution for these homeless families. There are nearly 10,000 people on a waiting list for just 41 council homes in the area currently. This means more and more families must rely on PRS housing to secure sustainable, long-term homes.

How the scheme offers something different

While bond schemes aren’t new and have been successfully utilised by local authorities to support families to access the PRS, the Shelter pilot scheme offers something different.

In addition to the loan given by the local Credit Union, Shelter prepares families to take on new tenancies through offering a variety of support services. This further support ensures long-lasting change is made to families’ financial circumstances and mindsets, so arrears and debt are mitigated as much as possible.

In practice, Shelter bonds require service users to complete agreed milestones through an individualised support plan. In order to access a bond support workers will need to be satisfied that the client has taken steps along their journey to become ‘tenancy ready.’ This could include speaking to advisors about any arrears on utilities issues, having a debt plan in place or undertaking tenancy readiness training.

Working in partnership to help families succeed 

Shelter in Bristol has taken practical steps to ensure loan recipients don’t face further barriers to access the PRS. Shelter staff have built trust with prospective landlords and lettings agents, to set pre-acceptance parameters to the scheme and carry out full risk assessments.

By gathering feedback periodically from landlords, Bristol Hub will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the processes within the scheme and make any necessary changes to ensure it serves all parties well.

The pilot and beyond

Currently one household has accessed the pilot scheme and so far all loan repayments have been paid back on time. Within the next six months, the scheme will be supporting ten households.

In the next few months, more comprehensive evaluation and reporting will take place, so Shelter can get a better understanding of the difference the loan has made to these families’ lives.

If the pilot is successful, Shelter Bristol will consider extending the scheme to more households in the area, including to young single adults.

We’ll be providing further updates as the pilot progresses and will share findings and learnings as the months pass.