To receive a report from the Head of Housing and Property Services updating Members on homelessness within Mid Devon, as requested by the Committee.
As requested the Committee had before it a report * from the Head of Housing and Property Services providing an update on homelessness within Mid Devon.
The Housing Options Manager outlined the contents of the report, explaining that Homelessness across the country was predicted to increase over the next few years with rising private rental house prices and lack of social housing. The Authority was starting to see an increase in the total numbers approaching the Housing Options team for housing advice. Applicants presenting to the Council recently appeared to have more complex needs, with the involvement of mental health services, drug and alcohol services; and there had appeared to be an increase in the numbers of private and social landlords issuing Notice To Quit due to the complex needs of tenants. The officer reported that this was common across the Devon and Cornwall network.
So far this year (2016/17) the service had had 347 approaches for housing advice compared to 299 this time last year. The Housing Options team had taken a more proactive role in dealing with applicants approaching the service. The team engaged with applicants and landlords at an early stage to prevent the person from becoming homeless and attempted to retract any notices served by landlords.
There were currently 8 households in temporary accommodation within Mid Devon and over the last few years there had been an increase in the number of households going into temporary accommodation due to the threat of becoming homeless. The officer explained that this could be attributed mainly to households leaving it to the last minute to approach the service for help.
The Housing Options team already worked in partnership with some other social landlords who worked in the District. Whereever possible, individual officers engaged in joint visits with landlords to help with preventative work at the stage when possession proceedings were being considered.
Mid Devon had joined up with East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council and together applied for a bid from DCLG for the Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers Application. Through this network, Mid Devon was working on an action plan to help deal with the impact of homelessness across the district. The four districts had been awarded a grant of £359,000 to help prevent homelessness over the next 3 years (2016/17-2018/19).
Churches Housing Action Team (CHAT) and Citizens Advice had been awarded a small amount of funding. Community based services could help people try to remain in their home, help them to maintain a tenancy, work with landlords in the area, help with tenancy rescue schemes and provide rough sleeper provision. There were currently 4 known rough sleepers in Mid Devon but major cities were seeing an increase.
The officer informed Members that the Homelessness Reduction Bill 2016-2017 was seeking to introduce a new duty on local authorities to prevent homelessness for all eligible applicants threatened with homelessness and a new duty to relieve homelessness for all eligible homeless applicants. These duties involved helping all eligible people, whether they were single or a family. When a person was homeless or threatened with homelessness, the Council was currently obliged to deal with them if it was likely that they would become homeless within 28 days. Under the new legislation, the number of days would increase to 56.
The officer considered that these changes could have an impact on the authority but it was not yet know what the financial impact would be.
The officer reminded Members that dealing with homelessness was a statutory duty, driven by legislation.
Discussion took place regarding:
· Concerns that people from Mid Devon were amongst the homeless in Exeter;
· The possibility of looking at new ways of working to see if there were areas that could be done better;
· Grants to outside organisations;
· Temporary accommodation often being a long way from the local area which created instability for children when they needed to move school;
· The potential number of teenagers ‘sofa surfing’.
It was RESOLVED that a Working Group be put in place to look in depth at what was being done regarding homelessness and what improvements could be made to ensure best use of resources. Membership of the Group to be Cllrs Mrs H Bainbridge, Mrs A R Berry, Mrs J Roach and N A Way.
(Proposed by Cllr Mrs J Roach and seconded by Cllr N A Way)
Note: - Report previously circulated and attached to Minutes.