Councils spend near £500m on temporary accommodation

FoI responses expose eye-watering sums spent by sample councils alone on temporary accommodation over the past year.

homeless (15)

24housing’s exclusive FoI sample of council spending on temporary accommodation exposes an eye-watering £487,712, 733 paid out over the past year.

The bulk of that total covered costs in London where Newham Council topped the chart on £61,069,621.

But where London boroughs – with a handful of exceptions – were well up into eight figures, councils sampled beyond the capital hovered around lower sevens at most.

However, Birmingham City Council – which responded outside of the sample’s timeline – spent £18,648,890 on PRS accommodation over 2017 and has had to commit some £63m from reserves to balance its budget.

The sample took in all of the London boroughs.

A London Councils spokesperson said the capital’s boroughs were collectively committed to finding appropriate long-term homes for individuals and families that are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“However, they are contending with the challenges of reduced funding and increasing homelessness duties, a diminished stock of council housing and the impacts of welfare reform and an unaffordable private rented sector.

“Without sufficient resources and joined-up policy making, boroughs will continue to find it difficult to carry out their homelessness duties without widespread use of temporary accommodation,” she said.

To London Councils, bringing down the use of temporary accommodation requires a holistic approach to tackling the capital’s housing crisis:

  • Redoubling efforts across government to build new homes of all tenures
  • Removing the HRA borrowing cap so that councils can invest in building new social housing
  • Increasing LHA rates in London so that they are more reflective of the local housing market

With Birmingham out of the equation, the sample showed Manchester to be the biggest spender beyond London on £8,993,271.

Also sampled were the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (£3,577,592) and councils for Glasgow (£2,348,323), Reading (£2,681,390), Liverpool (£6,567,653), Norwich (£226,920), Leeds (£17,715) and Cardiff (£1,948,023).

The LGA maintains government must take a lead on bringing temporary accommodation costs down.

That lead has long been seen as a ‘new deal’ that gives councils the ability to borrow to invest in housing and to keep 100% of the receipts from any homes they sell to replace them and reinvest in building of more.

To the LGA, councils are spending £2m a day or more on trying to blunt the sharp end of the housing crisis – scare resource that could be invested in building affordable homes and preventing homelessness happening in the first place.

The sample figures add up to housing the homeless or soon to be homeless now being as much a social responsibility as a political priority.

With no clear lead on this from government, some housing associations and councils are developing solutions of their own.

Faced with a near £48m spend on temporary accommodation, London’s Enfield council -second only to Newham in the sample – has sponsoring its own wholly owned housing provider for a start-up sum of £250,000.

On paper, that saves the council a near £2m a year currently spent on renting back former council homes to the homeless.

The council has a major debate on temporary accommodation placement policy and accompanying homelessness strategy planned – with some 3,244 households were living in temporary accommodation at the start of this year.

In Birmingham, the Homeless Rooms initiative works as a kind of Rightmove for rough sleepers and sofa surfers.

Research by social entrepreneurs Mark Peters and Lee Blake revealed dozens of landlords who own hundreds of properties with thousands of rooms who accept homeless people without the need for deposits, fees, or extortionate rents.

At any one time the void rates (empty rooms) for these properties are between 10-20%, leaving some 5,000 such rooms available – which breaks down to 500-1000 rooms available each night.

So Homeless Rooms matches empty rooms in supported accommodation flats and houses to those that need them.

Birmingham City Council receives over 100 homeless applications each week with around 1,800 in temporary accommodation and 350 in B&B.

In 2016 similar stats obtained by 24housing showed London councils spent nearly £600m on temporary accommodation over an 18 month period.

Then, five capital councils alone accounted for some £270m.

Newham was again at the top on with £90,020,753 over two financial years followed by Ealing (£48,325,627), Haringey (£48,143,000), Westminster Council (£41,712,000) and Hackney (£41,646,300).

Again, Birmingham City Council came closest to the London boroughs, with its £11,096,508 spend.spending hitting a handsome £11,096,508.

Manchester City Council spent £5,345,717 on temporary accommodation and Northern Ireland’s Housing Executive forked out just over £4m.

 

  • For full story see the June edition of 24housing

 

 

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