Agenda item

Temporary Accommodation for Homeless Households


Bob Porter, Head of Housing and Planning introduced the report and made the following points:


  • There has been a steady increase for homelessness support;
  • This had been driven largely by an increase in private rental costs in the private sector;
  • There had also been a serious shortfall over the last four years in affordable homes in the district. This was also a reflection of the national trend;
  • The number of lettings had been reducing year on year;
  • Increases in private rented costs, had made it difficult for the Council’s  Housing team to find rented accommodation in the private sector that match local housing allowances;
  • There had been an increase in the number of households that had been served Section 21 notices to vacant their private rented accommodation where the tenant could be asked to vacant the tenancy even when not at fault;
  • 2017 was a particularly challenging year, as the team attended to 968 households seeking assistance;
  • The Homelessness Reduction Act, that came into operation on 3 April 2018, has provided an increased timeframe within which to support households to prevent homelessness (i.e. from 28 days to 112 days);
  • The Council has recruited new housing advisors and Landlord Liaison Officers;
  • The team had so far this year prevented 213 households from homelessness (as at end of September) as opposed to 92 households during the same period in the previous year. The new posts have been a significant factor in this improvement.
  • In a period of six months between April and September 2018, the team had attended to 994 referrals, a figure that is already higher than for the whole of 2017;
  • The pressures on the team were still quite intense;
  • The team had set itself a challenging target of reducing the council’s use of temporary accommodation by 50% from a baseline average of  180 households at the end of 2017 to 90 by March 2019;
  • The team has initially focused on hotel accommodation and successfully reduced the number of households temporarily accommodated in hotels from around 60 at the beginning of the year to just 2 cases in September; a tremendous achievement for the team.


In response Members made comments and asked questions as follows:


  • Members praised the housing teams for the exceptional work they had done under difficult circumstances;
  • Why did it look like PIP was being paid nearly a third more by ratio than was paid to other providers?
  • How much of temporary accommodation is outside Thanet District?
  • On average what would be the number of nights a household spends in temporary accommodation? This might create additional understanding of the unit cost of £5,600 used to support each household?
  • Will the budget of £750k be enough for 2018/19?
  • Referrals have gone up about 200% but the acceptances by Council were at less that figure. Why was it the case?
  • Was there a relationship between more households approaching the Council regarding housing support and the roll-out of Universal Credit?
  • Would it not be better to tackle the root cause of homelessness rather than dealing with the consequences of it?
  • The ideal solution would be for councils to build more social housing? Will the Housing Acquisition Programme help alleviate the homelessness in the district?
  • The Mayor of London had come up with the new definition of affordable housing from 80% of the market value to a third of income. Was there an intention within Kent to change the definition of affordable housing as well?


Responding to queries from Members, Mr Porter said the following:


  • PIP generally provided better quality, self-contained accommodation and on average households tended to stay in this type of accommodation for longer.
  • PIP were extremely responsive to Council requests for accommodation and they do provide self-contained family sized accommodation. This is much larger in comparison to other providers especially hotel/bed and breakfast accommodation;
  • The council also worked to ensure that no households were in hotel accommodation for more than 6 weeks, in line with government regulations;
  • About 30% of the temporary accommodation was outside the district; now that we have successfully reduced the use of hotel accommodation we would prioritise reducing the use of accommodation out of the district.
  • A great deal of work had been done to project this year’s budget, including projecting planned reductions in the use of temporary accommodation. Funding had been set aside for new staff resources and landlord incentives as well. Temporary accommodation has been reduced, but there is a still some way to go before the out-turn figures for the year will be know. We are working hard to generate income to offset the cost of temporary accommodation and in particular to secure housing benefit income. At this stage we are projecting to budget for the year end position;
  • More households were approaching the Council earlier than before the new Homelessness Reduction Act (2017), thereby giving the Council more time to prevent homelessness;
  • Initial delay in making payments of Universal Credit is having an impact and causing households to accrue arrears of rent that are then difficult to catch up. The difference between the local housing allowances and local private sector rent is also a significant issue, impacting on the ability of people on low incomes to afford the private rented sector;
  • Affordable housing would make a difference. The Council’s housing development programmes had delivered affordable homes in the district. This has contributed to reducing the number of people on the housing list and in temporary accommodation. This included the delivery of 51 unit new built programme, 35 units delivered and planned in Cliftonville, 29 Empty Homes programme in Ramsgate, an Intervention Programme in King Street in Ramsgate and an Acquisitions Programme that has so far completed the acquisition of 6 new homes;
  • In its Tenancy Strategy, the Council defined affordable housing as being 80% of the market rent or the local housing allowances or whichever is lower.


Mr Porter said that any questions that had not been answered in the meeting would be responded to in writing after the meeting.


The Panel requested that the report be shared with other Councillors as part of the Members Briefing agenda.


Thereafter Members noted the report.

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