When households seek assistance for housing-related issues from their Local Authority, they may be presented with advice on a range of housing options, for example, the opportunity to make a homelessness application. This approach, which is known as Housing Options, began to be implemented from around 2009, and more so after the abolition of the priority need test for homelessness.
Local Authorities can use Housing Options as a means of delivering their duty under section 2 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. It must be stressed however that Housing Options is only one way of delivering the duty and that Housing Options as an approach is not a statutory function. This legislation places a duty on Local Authorities to ensure that advice and information about:
(a) homelessness and the prevention of homelessness, and
(b) any services which may assist a homeless person or assist in the prevention of homelessness,
are available free of charge to any person in the Authority’s area.
The aim of this approach is to make households better informed of their options for accommodation, and ensure they are able to make a more informed choice.
In May 2014, the Scottish Housing Regulator published a national thematic inquiry into Housing Options and homelessness prevention, “Housing Options in Scotland: a thematic inquiry” . This inquiry assessed the performance of Local Authorities in developing and delivering Housing Options services for their customers. In it, it recommended that Local Authorities and the Scottish Government should work together to provide improved guidance on best practice for Housing Options as it regarded that there was still room for development. A summary of the Regulator’s recommendations is found in the Background Section. Housing Options Guidance was published in March 2016.
Each Local Authority is likely to have its own version of Housing Options as each will have decided how to best deliver their section 2 duty. The Housing Options Guidance published by the Scottish Government in March 2016 is not statutory guidance, but is to be used as a tool-kit for local authorities when developing their approach to Housing Options.