Contracts have been exchanged for the first four new properties to be bought by Thanet council in a bid to relieve homelessness on the isle.
The properties are the first of an expected 10-12 homes which the authority aims to buy in a £2.13million scheme agreed last October.
The cash is made up of £630,000 from a percentage of the isle’s Right To Buy sales and a further £1.5 million from the Housing Revenue Account.
The properties will be directly offered to homeless households.
Latest targets for Thanet council show that the issue of homelessness continues to be a struggle.
The number of homelessness cases prevented last year fell to 54, an all-time low in the last six years with the figure standing at 95 for 2014.
The average time to take decisions on homelessness cases has risen from 29 days in 2016 to 41 last year.
A report to members of the corporate performance review working party says: “This is due to the growing number of homeless cases and the work entailed to reach a decision. Homeless officers have a caseload of over 80 -100 at any one time. In the last quarter 196 homeless decisions were made and home working is proving valuable to ensure the legal letters are completed in a timely manner.”
There has also been an increase in the amount of time people are spending in temporary accommodation, up from 50 days in 2016 to more than double at 113 for 2017.
The report says: “This is due to the challenges of finding housing solutions for households to enable them to move out of temporary accommodation more quickly. The number of available affordable homes to let has reduced and access to the private rented sector is more difficult.
“An increasing proportion of available homes for social and affordable rent are being let to homeless households, but this alone is insufficient to keep track with growing demand.”
The report reveals the contracts being exchanged for the four new homes and adds: “We are working with Orbit to see if they can also provide direct offers to homeless households. We continue to work on future housing options in preparation for the Homeless Reduction Act.”
The report says caps on housing benefit payments and the housing element of universal credit are putting rented properties out of the reach of many residents.
It adds: “There are particular barriers for households living on low incomes as the gap between average local rents and local housing allowances continues to grow. Our Landlord Liaison Officers have visited local agents to better understand their requirements and develop a package of incentives that will encourage more private landlords to let more homes to households faced with homelessness.”
Between July 1- September 30 last year there were 227 homelessness applications made to TDC with 66 of those applications accepted as homeless.
Figures updated for September 30 show 179 households in temporary accommodation with 61 of those in B&Bs. The figure in June had been 163 temporary accommodation and 57 in B&Bs.
In December 2017 TDC paid ‘housing management’ costs – temporary accommodation – of £210,920.90 including a payment of £133,835.70 to Paramount Independent Property Services. The main bulk of the remaining payments were to the Glenwood and Florence Court hotels.
A further £23,955 was paid to housing association Family Mosaic Housing.
In January this year the council recorded 2,736 empty properties – including second homes. A new Empty Property Officer has been employed by TDC.
Thanet council says there are further plans to tackle to homelessness issue
New legislation, with the implementation of the new Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 on April 3, will increase the time available for homelessness prevention work from 28 to 56 days.
Thanet council has also earmarked an extra £1.63million in the 2018/19 budget which will be used for self-contained, modular homes for emergency accommodation.
The homes are being used as a solution by other authorities in the country. Reading built 28 ‘prefab’ homes at a cost of £71,400 each. Bromley and Greenwich councils have also revealed plans to use the prefabs to deal with homelessness.
Thanet council has also pledged that every household threatened with homelessness will have a personal housing plan, agreed with the council setting out the support available and the actions that they need to take to secure accommodation. Personal Housing Plans will be available online so that homeless households can access them remotely on computers, tablets and smartphones.
Porchlight helpline 0800 567 76 99
Thanet Families in Need housing support