Rother council to consider measures to help prevent homelessness

The figures show that, in the South East, the total number of people living in temporary accommodation in 2017/18 was 8,474 (up by 391 people from the previous year and 4,816 from 2010).
The figures show that, in the South East, the total number of people living in temporary accommodation in 2017/18 was 8,474 (up by 391 people from the previous year and 4,816 from 2010).

Rother District Council is to consider adopting a range of measures to help prevent homelessness and reduce spending on temporary accommodation.

Using a £275,000 one-off government grant, the council is proposing to introduce a series of proposals intended to make it easier for low-income residents to find housing within the district.

The move comes as the council predicts a £490,000 spend on temporary accommodation places in 2018/19.

The proposals were given the unanimous backing of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee at a meeting on Monday (January 28) but will need cabinet approval before being formally adopted.

Speaking on Monday, scrutiny committee chairman Paul Osborne (Con, Eastern Rother) said: “There is a cost you can’t include in this – the social cost.

“The cost to the NHS, the cost to various social services and the cost for people in temporary accommodation, of the stress of being in that predicament where the whole social fabric of their being almost falls apart.”

The measures proposed include the setting up of a Social Letting Agency (potentially in partnership with Wealden District Council), which would manage property and guarantee the rent for private landlords if they take in social tenants.

The council would also look at running a similar guaranteed rent pilot scheme, which would guarantee six months rent but not include the management role of the Social Letting Agency.

It also plans to appoint two officers responsible for finding private landlords willing to let to social tenants and to support the tenancies once on place.

Part of the funding would also be allocated to existing council schemes on rough sleeping outreach and short-term loans for agency fees and deposits.

Some of the proposals follow on from recommendations put forward by a housing working group tasked with looking at the rising use of temporary accommodation within the district and other housing related issues.

Further proposals from these recommendations – focused on increasing the council’s own supply of temporary and emergency housing – are expected to come forward later this year.

Susan Prochak (Lib Dem, Salehurst) said: “Every time this subject comes up I am ashamed that we have this level of homelessness rising here in Rother and across the country.

“I find the report absolutely inspirational, because it would have been easy to  just put this pot of money into more temporary accommodation and it is great to see we are trying to tackle it on various different levels.”

However Cllr Prochak also raised concerns that the funding was only guaranteed for one year. In light of this, she proposed including a direction in its recommendations to urge cabinet to identify funding for future years as well.

In response to Cllr Prochak, officers said the funding is considered ‘likely’ to continue in some form in future years and that more information was expected following the conclusion of the government’s fairer funding review.

Officers added that if the proposals reduced the amount of money the council spent on temporary accommodation it would have to look at it ‘with or without external funding.’

Meanwhile John Barnes (Con, Darwell) said: “I have more of a half-full glass view than a half-empty one personally.

“This is high priority on the national agenda. I think some form of grant support is likely to continue. This is not only self-financing but it actually produces a benefit, if it works.

“Where I don’t go with Cllr Prochak, is we have to make sure it works before we reinforce it. But I suspect it is going to work and I suspect therefore it will feature in the next budget whether there is a government grant or not.”

Following discussions, the committee unanimously backed a recommendation to adopt the proposals. This recommendation is to be considered by the council’s cabinet in the near future.