Jane Haynes, Boot rogue landlords out of Birmingham

Birmingham Live and Mail

It appeared to be a fairly routine community story when Jane Haynes visited residents worried about drugs and violence but it was to be the touchstone for an investigation into a hitherto unreported scandal.

What she found was a staggering supported housing crisis that had blown up in Birmingham. Jane found multiple companies had descended on the city to get a share of a cash-rich housing benefits opportunity afforded by lax regulations and very little enforcement. Family homes were converted into 'supported' rooms for vulnerable and challenging people from all over the country in a business worth over £200 million a year in Birmingham alone. She used FOIs, data searches in payment records, regulator reports, Companies House and the Land Registry to gather some information but mostly she hit the streets and talked to people affected. Her reporting since has been diligent and hard hitting. This has included * stories of traumatised, bullied and sexually abused tenants * residents driven out of their neighbourhoods * senior police officers desperate for action * communities joining forces to fight back * companies advertising empty rooms on social media, luring people to the city from across the country She has highlighted the limited powers of regulation and enforcement, exposed some of those involved and highlighted hypocrisy among local politicians. Jane has used Facebook Live events to engage with readers, with thousands joining in. As a result of her stories, traumatised individuals have been moved into better care, bullying tenants have been evicted and houses closed down. Isolated neighbours have been empowered to work together with each other and with the newspaper, deepening local connections. Nationally, her exposes were one of the catalysts for a select committee inquiry and there is finally hope of legislative change. Jane’s work has been praised in Parliament and the City Council Chamber. Nationals and broadcasters have all explored the issue, alerted by Jane's reporting. Crisis has just launched a Regulate The Rogues campaign. City MP Shabana Mahmood said: “I’ve no doubt that it’s thanks to Jane’s reporting that we have blown the scandal of exempt accommodation wide open. Through her tireless work over three years Jane has lifted the lid on the sector and proven that local journalism is delivering for our communities. By amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable living in supported exempt accommodation, Jane has brought national attention to the challenge in our city." The city's new Exempt Accommodation Forum described Jane's work as “a clear example of what true public interest journalism is about, and shows what can be done when journalists and communities work together to effect change...giving a voice to the hidden and made visible what many wanted to conceal." Jane has embarked on a new strand, focussed on the property owners who lease to non-compliant exempt organisations - then walk away. An MP, a councillor and a police advisor have been the first exposed.