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Council to spend £15m on 47 two-bed homes for homeless families

Council to spend £15m on 47 two-bed homes for homeless families
Jan 16, 2017 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published by The Croydon Advertiser on 07/12/2016

Council to spend £15m on 47 two-bed homes for homeless families

Croydon Council is to invest an extra £15million in a property fund to increase the amount of housing it has available for families on its housing waiting list.

The multi-million investment in the Real Lettings scheme will see the council gain the use of 47 two-bed homes to house homeless families.

The council says it will save about £19,000 a year from its emergency accommodation budget through the project, and will receive a return of about two per cent on the £15million injection.

Some 880 households were accepted as homeless by the council in the 2015/16 financial year, up 15 per cent on the previous year.

Council statistics show there were 3,137 families in temporary accommodation and 806 in shared bed and breakfast arrangements as of December 30, 2015.

The cost of providing such housing has increased 200 per cent in five years, from £1.8 million in 2010/11 to £5.4 million in 2014/15.

A council report on the move said it is hoped the investment will help “significantly reduce” the use of shared bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

“Dealing with increasing homelessness is currently resulting in significant cost pressures to the council,” it said.

Because the average rent for a two-bedroom property in Croydon is £1,200 per month, while the Local Housing Allowing (LHA) – the housing benefit – is just £900, every time the council places a homeless family in private accommodation the authority faces a £300 shortfall.

The problem is expected to get worse because private rents are rising rapidly while LHA has been frozen by the Government.

The move is expected to get the go-ahead on Monday (December 12) at a meeting of the council’s cabinet and comes as the council announced earlier this year it would tighten restrictions on access to the borough’s housing waiting list.

People will have to have lived in the borough for at least three years before becoming eligible for a place on the borough’s housing waiting list if they become homeless, in order to ease the pressure on the list.

Alison Butler, the council’s cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning said the move was about making the system fairer.

The council is also planning to build about 1,000 homes in the borough through its own housing company Brick by Brick.

Homelessness and housing was identified by the borough’s Opportunities and Fairness Commission as “perhaps the greatest challenge facing the borough”.

Cllr Butler told the Advertiser moves to cut the number of people the council has to house in temporary or bed and breakfast accommodation were welcome.

“I’m proud of our £30m investment in the Real Lettings Fund, which has already given a decent long-term home and jobseeking support to 150 Croydon households, but we recognise there is a housing crisis in Croydon and we need to do more.

“If the cabinet approves this further £15m investment, it will support dozens more households into a place of their own, help tackle demand and further cut our use of emergency accommodation, which is not only bad for families but expensive for the council.”

The new investment will see the council invest the £15m in the Real Lettings 2 property fund, which is run by charity St Mungo’s and describes itself as the “largest social impact property fund in the UK”.

Real Lettings uses the cash to buy properties to house the homeless, which are then administered and run like a housing association by St Mungo’s.

The scheme works through investments by local authorities or other bodies, which then get the right to house tenants in said properties.

It is not yet known where the houses will be, through previous investments by the council in the fund have seen families housed in the north of the borough as well as Sutton and Lambeth.

Croydon Council first bought into the first iteration of the scheme under the previous Conservative administration in 2013 and 2014, investing a total of £30million so far, which has given the borough access to 146 homes.

As well as taking pressure from the council’s housing waiting list, those schemes saw a return on the investment of three per cent.

Conservative councillor Dudley Mead, who was cabinet member for housing at the time of the initial investment, said the scheme would “ease pressure” on the council in managing homelessness and would allow families to be placed in good quality accommodation instead of “costly” bed and breakfasts.