Permanent solutions to a temporary problem
Homelessness has risen steadily since 2010 and with it the demand for temporary accommodation has increased too. CIH policy and practice officer Faye Greaves explores how local authorities can respond in a challenging environment.
CIH policy and practice officer Faye Greaves has prepared a briefing exploring how local authorities can best respond. We spoke to Faye to find out why temporary accommodation matters and how local authorities are meeting the challenge.
Why does temporary accommodation matter?
It matters because homelessness is on the rise and it is inevitable that as levels of homelessness go up, so will the demand for temporary accommodation. In the first quarter of 2016 nearly 15,000 households were registered as being owed a rehousing duty by local authorities in England – that’s nine per cent higher than last year and 54 per cent higher than the same period in 2010.
As we would expect the numbers in temporary accommodation have also risen sharply – up 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2014/15.
What challenge does this present to local authorities?
The biggest challenge is to tackle the root causes of homelessness so that people don’t end up needing temporary accommodation. There is some excellent work going on to do this but in the long-term effective prevention will rely on a strategy from government which gives local authorities the level of support and resource they need.
In the meantime local authorities are obliged to provide accommodation for certain groups of homeless people and they are going to need to do so for significant numbers of households for the foreseeable future.
In what is already an extremely difficult financial landscape, finding ways to meet this obligation in a way which gives people the support they need in a cost effective way is a big challenge.
What are the options?
There are a number of options and local authorities up and down the country are doing great work to meet the demand for temporary accommodation:
• Using guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation
• Sourcing accommodation in the private sector
• Purchasing property in the private market
• Making use of empty homes and vacant sites
• Using prefabricated housing
How are local authorities meeting this challenge with limited resource?
The best initiatives are pooling resource and thinking outside the box.
For example Swindon Borough Council manages an in-house private sector leasing scheme with dedicated officers liaising with landlords to procure accommodation.
The council enters into a lease arrangement with the landlord and then sublets the properties to homeless households.
Any surplus generated is used to support prevention activity which helps reduce demand for temporary accommodation and eases the pressure on the council’s budget.
Meanwhile the London Borough of Bromley has teamed up with the housing provider Mears Group to create a limited liability partnership to provide over 400 homes for use as temporary accommodation. Mears is in the process of finding, acquiring and refurbishing properties and will then provide a full tenancy and asset management service for 40 years before the properties revert to the council.
With more than 1,000 households in costly temporary accommodation it is estimated the move will save £6 million a year and give hundreds of homeless households a more appropriate home.
Elsewhere Enfield Council has launched an innovative scheme which allows people in long-term residential care to lease out their home. It is then used as accommodation for homeless people for a fixed period. The property owner and/or their family gets rental income towards their care and can then decide at the end of the agreement if they want to extend it or get their home back.
Grants are available to help people get their homes up to rental standard.
These are just a few of examples of work which show that putting some resource into homelessness can help to make sure people get the support they need and pays dividends in the long run.
Find out more by getting access to the full briefing ‘How to enhance temporary accommodation provision’.
Policy and practice officer Faye Greaves will be joined by Nicola Forsdyke, joint housing needs lead at Exeter City Council, for a webinar on 1st September from 11am to 12noon. Faye and Nicola will explore how local authorities can tackle homelessness and respond to the need for temporary accommodation. Find out more here.