Scarborough Council's homeless strategy: 'more accommodation will be needed'

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Scarborough Council’s housing manager has warned that the authority is facing a challenging future as it looks to tackle homelessness in the borough.

Andrew Rowe told councillors today that more funding cuts are likely and more accommodation is needed if the council is to meet its legal duty to help those at risk of losing their homes.

The council is currently preparing its homeless strategy for the next four years as figures show that it helped more than 1,200 households last year who were at risk of homelessness.

Earlier this month, the borough council’s leader, Cllr Steve Siddons, agreed a move to bring a housing provider in-house following a decision by North Yorkshire County Council to cut its funding provision for homeless and rough sleeping support in Scarborough by 45%.

Horton Housing provides support to around 120 households within the borough and will now be run by the borough council, though a number of jobs will be lost as a result of the move.

At today’s briefing, Mr Rowe told councillors that further cuts could be coming down the line.

He said the county council was carrying out a review of the North Yorkshire Young Person’s Pathway, which gives young people necessary support, advice and mediation to enable them to stay in their homes.

Mr Rowe said: “There will be a review of it in the coming year but our suspicion is that [the county council’s] priority will be towards the young people it has a statutory duty towards under the Children’s Act, which is 16 and 17 year olds and care leavers.

“Our fear is that everybody else will be the responsibility of the district councils. Foundation Housing deals with around 500 young people at risk of homelessness in Scarborough a year. In terms of the ones [the county council] has a legal duty towards it is about 25% of the total, so it would have big, big implications for us. For us to provide the service it would be about £600,000 a year.”

Mr Rowe added that the main reason for people being at risk of homelessness in the borough, and nationally, was the loss of rented accommodation. Other factors include people getting into debt and fleeing domestic violence.

A number of those who find themselves homeless are single men, who find it hard to find flats.

He said: “Everything I hear from my staff and other services is that it is harder and harder and harder to get people, especially young single people, into social housing.

“Housing associations are placing restrictions on who can access their housing, I get why they do it, but from our legal duty to help people it makes it harder.”

Mr Rowe added that a lot of the demands being put on housing associations by national policies had led to it being more difficult for the council to get people it was trying to help into social housing.

Councillors were informed that while Mr Rowe was confident the council could secure more social housing in the borough going forward that the difference in rents between social housing and affordable housing in Scarborough was “not that big at all” compared to bigger cities like London as affordable homes are offered at 80% of market rent.

“For me,” said Mr Rowe “in terms of housing supply it is so much about the tenure than it is about the type. When we have looked at the total makeup of social housing stock across the borough only 4% of it is general needs flatted accommodation. The supply of homes that we have got just does not meet the demand.

“In terms of the council’s priorities, we need to be placing more emphasis on flats as that’s what is required. We are doing well at building family homes, we need more flatted development.”

The council’s new homeless strategy will be going before the authority’s scrutiny board in July.

It outlines a number of ways the council will look to address homelessness and rough sleeping in the next four years.

Rough sleeping fluctuates in the borough; last month 18 people were counted sleeping on the streets, more recently that number had fallen to four.

Earlier this year the council appointed a rough sleeping co-ordinator thanks to some extra Government funding.

Other “more radical” ideas floated by Mr Rowe to tackle issues moving forward would be for Scarborough Council to set up its own letting agency to get help secure flats for people in need.

The final homeless strategy will be implemented later this year.