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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 21/05/2002
Temporary Accommodation for Homeless Households - Hostels



This report provides an overview of temporary accommodation used by the Council in fulfilling its duties in respect of housing households that have been rendered homeless.

The report also suggests that the Council should embark on a programme of refurbishing its hostels with a view to providing self-contained accommodation where possible. This will be a long-term programme.

It also recognises that provision for homeless households is not currently available across the whole Borough and that it would be helpful and better meet local needs were there to be new hostels in Godalming and Cranleigh.

This report, then, seeks to set the scene, generate debate about how best the Council might meet the needs of homeless households, and establish a way forward in respect of hostels for the homeless. This will help inform the development of the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.

There are potentially significant financial implications relating to the improvement of hostel accommodation. Depending on the views of the Council on this matter, further work on the financial implications will have to be undertaken and reported at a later stage. There are also “Opportunities for All” implications as the report relates to the Council’s expectations as to the living conditions of those who live in temporary accommodation.

There are no environmental, asset management, or Crime and Disorder implications arising from this report.
APPENDIX L
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 21ST MAY 2002

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Title:
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION FOR HOMELESS HOUSEHOLDS
– HOSTELS
[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and Purpose

This report provides an overview of temporary accommodation used by the Council in fulfilling its duties in respect of housing households that have been rendered homeless.

The report also suggests that the Council should embark on a programme of refurbishing its hostels with a view to providing self-contained accommodation where possible. This will be a long-term programme.

It also recognises that provision for homeless households is not currently available across the whole Borough and that it would be helpful and better meet local needs were there to be new hostels in Godalming and Cranleigh.

This report, then, seeks to set the scene, generate debate about how best the Council might meet the needs of homeless households, and establish a way forward in respect of hostels for the homeless. This will help inform the development of the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan.

There are potentially significant financial implications relating to the improvement of hostel accommodation. Depending on the views of the Council on this matter, further work on the financial implications will have to be undertaken and reported at a later stage. There are also “Opportunities for All” implications as the report relates to the Council’s expectations as to the living conditions of those who live in temporary accommodation.

There are no environmental, asset management, or Crime and Disorder implications arising from this report.
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Introduction

1. As a housing authority, the Council is obliged to provide accommodation for certain households who are rendered homeless. At the last meeting of this Committee, reports on the Homelessness Act and the need for a Homelessness Strategy were considered.

2. The Council discharges its duties to eligible homeless households currently by providing temporary accommodation viz:

o Bed and Breakfast hotels (usually only for very short periods);
o properties that the Council leases from the private sector;
o properties owned by the Council pending redevelopment;
o hostels owned and managed by the Council;
o in the Winterwatch Project run during the winter months; and
o in specialist hostels run by registered social landlords or voluntary agencies.

3. This report relates specifically to the hostels owned by the Council. It should be noted that homeless households tend to have to live in temporary accommodation for some two years before being rehoused permanently.

4. The table below provides, by way of illustration, the number of households accepted as homeless over the past 11 years and the numbers in temporary accommodation at the end of each financial year:

TABLE
Homelessness Enquiries and Acceptances and
Use of Temporary Accommodation
90 / 91 91 /
9292 / 9393 / 9494 / 9595 / 9696 / 9797 / 9898 / 9999 / 0000 / 01
Acceptances in priority need (Households)145136139162143179136102917365
Numbers in temporary accommodation at 31st March156181195198187191194161135120132
Numbers in B&B at 31st March11120100010

5. It can be noted from the table that, although there has been a significant decrease in the number of households accepted as homeless over the period, the number of households in temporary accommodation is not reducing at a commensurate rate. The reason for this is that the supply of family accommodation has reduced in recent years.

6. The Homelessness Act 2002, which, it is anticipated will come into force in the summer or autumn of this year, will give rise to local housing authorities being obliged to meet the housing needs of a wider range of homeless households. It is likely, therefore, that there will be an increasing demand on the Council’s homeless stock.

Supply of Temporary Accommodation

7. At 1st April 2002, the Council had the following properties available to it as temporary accommodation for homeless households:

51 units of hostel accommodation
49 properties leased from private owners
12 Waverley-owned properties on short-term lets pending redevelopment e.g. at Kilnfields, Haslemere; and at East Street, Farnham.
Domestic Violence Refuges, as available
Bed and Breakfast, as available

8. It should be noted that Bed and Breakfast accommodation for this client group is in short supply in the Borough and it is usually secured outside the Borough, some times as far away as Worthing and Slough.


9. The Council owns the following hostels:
10. As can be seen from the table above, a number of the hostels provide accommodation that has shared facilities. In practice, this means two, or possibly three, families having to share a kitchen and/or bathroom. Inevitably, this can lead to some friction within hostels as arguments can occur over the state in which the kitchen and bathrooms are left by members of other households. Even where there are good relations between households, your officers are aware that accommodation with shared facilities is not what households either expect or want.

11. Clearly, it is not financially possible to redevelop all of the schemes in the near future to resolve the issue of shared facilities. However, it is considered that a programme of works should begin at Cedar Lodge, to reconfigure the hostel to give rise to a number of self-contained units of temporary accommodation.

Highways, Hindhead

12. Highways, Hindhead, was acquired by the Council some years ago from the Department of Transport. It is a large house and has been used as temporary accommodation. Although it has provided a useful addition to the Council’s stock of temporary accommodation, its location has proved unpopular with homeless households as it is not close to schools, local facilities etc.

13. In the longer term, your officers would like to decommission Highways, and consider other alternatives for the site. However, before doing so, some consideration needs to be given to the overall supply of temporary accommodation.

Geographic Spread of Temporary Accommodation

14. There is a reasonable coverage of temporary accommodation across the Borough with the exception of Cranleigh, where the nearest (and smallest) hostels are in Bramley and Wonersh. Your officers, of necessity, often have to provide Cranleigh residents, who have been rendered homeless, temporary accommodation wherever it is available – and not in Cranleigh. This does give rise to a range of problems to families where the children are at school in Cranleigh and/or parents at work in the village.

15. Whilst your officers have no site in mind for a homeless hostel at this time, it seems appropriate that if the Council is to better meet the needs of homeless households, it would be appropriate for work to be undertaken with a view to securing a homeless hostel in Cranleigh.

16. Another area that is not well served by temporary accommodation is Godalming. The town is the second largest area of population in the Borough and currently has one two-unit hostel. It is considered that the town could usefully benefit from a better supply of temporary accommodation than is currently available.

Officer Comment

17. Clearly, none of these issues can be resolved quickly, and there needs to be a medium-term approach, – say over the next 5 years, to this issue. It is clear that the need for temporary accommodation is not likely to reduce in the coming years.

18. At this stage Members’ views are sought on whether:

a. the move towards providing self-contained temporary hostel accommodation is welcomed; and
b. there should be a better geographic spread of temporary hostel accommodation across the Borough.

Resource and Other Implications

19. There are potentially significant resource implications arising from the suggestions to move towards self-contained accommodation in hostels and securing another two hostels.

20. There is provision in the Council’s HRA Capital Programme for 2002/2003, 2003/2004 and 2004/05 of 200,000 each year from ‘Homeless Hostels’ which could be used to help reconfigure Cedar Lodge, Milford so that it provides self-contained accommodation.

21. It is possible that the value in Highways, Hindhead, might be realised to help fund another hostel to replace it in a better location.

22. There are revenue implications of not providing temporary accommodation as there may come a time when the Council might have to have greater recourse to using Bed and Breakfast accommodation, which is both expensive and unsatisfactory for any length of time for families.

23. Should Members support the matters raised in this report, a detailed report will be brought before the Committee and thence the Executive, with full costings.

24. There are important ‘Opportunities for All’ implications in respect of how the Council treats homeless households who, by definition, are at a considerable disadvantage in the Waverley community.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Committee passes observations to the Executive on the following:

1. that the proposal to move towards achieving self-contained temporary accommodation in hostels owned by the Council be pursued and a detailed report be made in due course; and

2. that the idea of achieving a better spread of temporary hostel accommodation across the Borough be worked on and a report be submitted in due course.

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Background Papers (DoH)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mr J Swanton Telephone: 01483 - 523375
Email: jswanton@waverley.gov.uk
comms/o&s2/2002-03/002 28231