Agenda item - Allocation of Temporary Accommodation Policy

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Agenda item

Allocation of Temporary Accommodation Policy

Report of Acting Executive Director, Environment, Development & Housing (copy attached).



1)               That the Allocation of Temporary Accommodation Policy set out in Appendix 3 of the report be adopted.



25.1   The Committee considered the report of the Acting Executive Director Environment, Development and Housing which stressed the need to manage the demand for temporary accommodation at a time of budget reduction.  There was a need to procure and place households in good quality accommodation and this was increasingly out of the city.  The report outlined how the council would allocate temporary accommodation, within and outside of the city, and presented the policy for adoption. The report was presented by the Service Improvement Manager.


25.2    Councillor Mears stated that she could not see any details of consultation in the report.  She referred to paragraph 1.4 which related to a recent Supreme Court case.  Councillor Mears asked what had happened up to now and who was carrying out the checks on how many families had been moved out of the city.  Her concern was not about moving people to local towns such as Eastbourne. She was more concerned about people being moved further afield and would not be happy to support the proposal until she had seen details identified in a report. 


25.3   The Service Improvement Manager explained that if the council failed to have a policy it was in danger of a legal challenge in every case where a person was placed outside of the city.  The longer the decision was delayed the more likely a challenge would occur.  This could have a huge impact on finding local accommodation.   Some people such as victims of domestic violence, wanted to be placed further away.  There had been ongoing consultation for a number of years.  The current report was ratifying the situation.  


25.4   Councillor Mears asked for clarity regarding where the boundaries would be for placing people outside of the city.  The Interim Head of Housing explained that members were being asked to agree a policy framework on which decisions are taken.  It was a criteria they were being asked to agree not a location.  Location was dependent on affordability for the council and the tenant.  Brighton was a hotspot for high housing costs.  Cheaper housing was found in the near vicinity and families were being placed in areas such as Peacehaven and Newhaven.  Recent government reforms would make this situation more difficult.  The Interim Head of Housing confirmed that if a policy was agreed the council could not be challenged in court.


25.5   Councillor Moonan stressed that it was the reality that the city had higher rents.  There was a need to identify people in the highest need and to supply appropriate accommodation. 


25.6   Councillor Barnett asked if the council would pay moving expenses for people to be relocated out of the city.  She was concerned at the effect on people’s health and for children who would be taken out of their schools to re-locate.  Councillor Barnett was concerned that the policy would lead to mental health problems.  


25.7   The Service Improvement Manager explained that an assessment   would consider education and health needs.  This was all contained in the policy.  Even if the council could afford suitable accommodation in the city, it was difficult to find.  The council could not procure enough accommodation from private landlords.  Meanwhile, many people were travelling into the city for schooling, colleges and work. The policy would allow people in the greatest need to stay in the city.  Not all cases were vulnerable people.  


25.8   Councillor Miller referred to page 59, Group C (Location of temporary accommodation).  He had concerns about this section.  Meanwhile, Group A would only include children in year 11.  Councillor Miller felt that the council could be far more inventive about the use of accommodation within the city.  For example, he asked if studio flats and new homes for neighbourhood properties could be used as temporary homes; or whether four bedroom properties could be split into smaller units. 


25.9   The Head of Temporary Accommodation & Allocation assured Councillor Miller that officers had explored every option.  There was very little suitable private rented property in the city.  The rent of a one bedroom flat averaged £875 to £900 a month.  There was a 10% increase projected next year.  Affordability was getting more out of people’s reach.  Officers were maximising the amount of accommodation in the city and were looking further afield. Because the housing benefit rate was static there was a gap between what income was obtained and the money required for leases. 


25.10  The Interim Head of Housing referred to pages 40 to 41 of the agenda.  These pages gave details of placements.  Over the last two and a half years the numbers of households outside the city boundaries had increased.  There were 1449 homeless households in temporary accommodation.  The council had looked at a number of initiatives to reduce costs.  For example, the use of Brighton & Hove Seaside Homes properties.  


25.11  Councillor Miller asked why people who were allocated one bedroom flats could not be given studio flats.  The Interim Head of Housing replied that new models would be brought back to a future meeting.  Every option was being explored. 


25.12  Councillor Lewry expressed concern that Brighton & Hove was pushing problems onto other councils.  The Service Improvement Manager stressed that the council would keep people in the greatest need in the city, or prioritise them so that they were returned to the city as soon as possible. In terms of procurement, the council were already working with Lewes District Council.   


25.13  The Interim Head of Housing stressed that the council had a statutory       duty to notify the receiving authority.  The council took its responsibility with other local authorities very seriously.  The council did work closely with other local authorities in a co-operative way.


25.14  Councillor Hill mentioned that there had been a recent report on how much it cost to rent and buy in the city.  She shared Councillor Barnett’s concern about the effect of the policy on children.  Councillor Hill referred to paragraph 3.5 of the report which stated that the potential for more vulnerable households to become homeless was increasing.  Councillor Hill stated that a great deal of the problems were caused by welfare reforms.   


25.15  Councillor Gibson considered the report to be thorough.  He paid tribute to officers in terms of expanding temporary accommodation.  He agreed that there was a need to be inventive and creative, with welfare reforms placing a cap on allowances.  For example, there had been discussions about a good landlord scheme, which might lead to a small improvement in expanding the supply of private sector landlords.  Tenants could be matched with landlords and there could be a commitment from landlords to continue the tenancy.


26.16  Councillor Atkinson stated that many private landlords only wanted to rent their properties to professional people.  All councillors wanted to keep accommodation in the city but there was a need to take account of the current financial situation.  Councillor Atkinson asked for more information about resettlement.  He hoped the policy could be monitored and reviewed carefully on a regular basis. 


26.17  Councillor Gibson agreed that the policy and criteria needed to be monitored.  He wanted to know how many people these options affected.  He would like to see this information in due course.  The Service Improvement Manager replied that the policy would only be instigated if the council did not have accommodation when the person concerned needed to be housed.  Officers could bring back a monitoring report on the numbers of people placed inside and outside the city. 


26.18  The Chair stated that a monitoring report would be very useful and agreed that this should be in six months.


25.19  RESOLVED:-


(1)            That the Allocation of Temporary Accommodation Policy set out in Appendix 3 of the report be adopted.


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