To consider report SHAP/87 of the Head of Strategic Housing.
Commission Members considered reportof the Head of Strategic Housing. In January 2023, the Commission had requested a report documenting the drivers of homelessness and how forecasts had been determined.
The Commission was informed that homelessness was a complex topic and driven by changes in personal circumstances created and impacted by many factors at both local and national level. These drivers could relate to the housing market (impacted by broader economic policy), living issues, national policy, changes to welfare benefit/taxation systems, global health and migration issues. Local housing authorities responded to these concerns depending on many factors, the most significant being the funding made available from central government and the supply of affordable housing. Demand outweighed supply, resulting in increased competition and pressure on all forms of housing, the use on temporary accommodation as well as other forms of use including hotels within the area. The Covid pandemic saw friends and family evictions escalate but also saw the local authority achieve success by liaising with many rough sleepers in a different way through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. The cost of living pressures continued as households struggle with meeting accommodation expenses.
During the discussion, with the Head of Strategic Housing, Housing Options Manager, Deputy Chief Executive and the Cabinet Member for Housing the following points were expressed:
· Detailed information was provided on the modular housing scheme. Initial consultation was underway on one site and subject to Planning permission, (which would also include a consultation stage), the module units would be a rapid build. It was anticipated other modular projects would follow the same process. It was recognised that water neutrality had delayed the housing build programme, however the retrofitting scheme had allowed this to resume.
· Acknowledgement that there had been a reduction in the private landlord market due to a variety of reasons; new legislation, mortgages and disparity between local housing allowance and rents (which the council had previously lobbied against). The council worked with both landlords and tenants however it was noted that any incentivisation ultimately needed to be cost-effective.
· Noted that support was provided in relation to homelessness and cost of living in terms of the following: affordability of accommodation; funding applications; household support; multi-agency support involving Citizens Advice West Sussex providing debt advice.
· Recognition that the causes given for homelessness, both locally and nationally may differ from the drivers for homelessness.
· Clarification provided on the numbers of total households in temporary accommodation (application and associated household) and whilst some trends were apparent these tended to be for rough sleepers where the needs were of a complex nature over a slightly longer term.
· Confirmation that the percentage of properties allocated to homeless households via the housing register was not due to be increased as the system of using direct lets was being instigated.
· Clarification that in terms of providing accommodation, the term ‘settled accommodation’ was defined in legislation as ‘a reasonable prospect of being occupied of 6 months or more’. An individual can become homeless after 6 months for a different reason.
· Recognition that the council continued to undertake comparisons with other authorities to share best practice and the challenges faced. It was noted that from discussions there appeared to be no correlation between authorities with housing stock and those without in terms of the current challenges.
· Clarification was provided on the Housing Strategies and Policies. Confirmation that there were multi-faceted reasons for homelessness within the borough and there was a need to be creative, incentivise, look at acquisition along with regeneration sites, cross-boundaries and investigate every option available. It was noted there was a need to consult but also manage expectations of everyone involved in the process. It was highlighted that homelessness was the single biggest pressure on the authority and not within its overall control.
· As this was her last attendance at OSC, the Commission took the opportunity to record its thanks and gratitude to the Housing Options Manager, Nikki Hargrave for all her hard work and support she had provided not just the Commission but the Council as a whole, throughout her years of service.
That the Commission noted the report, with the views expressed being acknowledged and documented by the officers.