Homelessness surges as county council due to cut support

Homelessness on the isle

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

The number of households in emergency accommodation in Thanet has almost doubled in the past year – and is “likely to get worse” according to a homelessness charity.

A staggering 542 individuals or families were placed in emergency accommodation in 2021/22, up from 273 the previous financial year.

Figures also show that currently more than 200 households in the district are in temporary accommodation – meaning they would likely be homeless otherwise.

Thanet District Council has more than 600 active ‘homelessness cases’, which includes those who are currently homeless, at risk of homelessness and being supported by rough sleeping services, or awaiting a council decision on whether to house them.

This comes after Kent County Council announced plans to axe its £5 million Homelessness Connect service in 2024.

The decision was branded “devastating” by local homelessness charity Porchlight, which is part of the Kent Homelessness Connect scheme.

TDC recently projected an overspend of £880,000 just on temporary accommodation needs, on top of an additional £400,000 this financial year allocated to deal with homelessness and fund related services.

In early October the local authority was awarded £3.8 million from the government to help rough sleepers over the next three years.

Currently 51 units of accommodation are provided by Kent Homelessness Connect in Thanet, but could be lost as the scheme ends.

A TDC spokesperson said: “We have managed to secure interim funding to keep these services running until March 2024, however after that period they are at risk.

“The loss of these bed spaces will lead to increased demand for the council’s statutory homelessness service.”

A spokesman for Porchlight – Kent’s largest homelessness charity – said: “It’s a perfect storm of issues that is likely to get worse over the coming months.”

A spokesperson for the charity added: “The cost-of-living crisis is pushing households on low incomes into homelessness.

“It’s not an issue that’s specific to Thanet – we hear from people across Kent who are struggling to afford the cost of housing, bills and food and are terrified of losing their home.

“Many landlords are selling their properties or converting them to Airbnbs, leaving renters with nowhere to go.”

The local authority concurs, saying that landlords serving section 21 eviction notices are one of a number of reasons for the increase.

Better known as no-fault evictions, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 allows landlords to turf out tenants at short notice without establishing any fault on their part.

The government committed in the 2022 Queen’s Speech to develop a ‘renters reform bill’ to ban such evictions.

Both the local authority and charity agree they can’t fight the surge in homelessness alone, and that more support is needed from central government.

Cllr Jill Bayford (Con), Thanet District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We will be lobbying the government to express our concerns around the demand for affordable housing in the district, and to ensure we have the powers and resources to be able to deliver what is needed.”

Thanet shadow member for housing, Cllr Helen Whitehead (Lab), added: “Temporary accommodation, and the lack of it, has been a constant issue here for years, due to consistent underfunding of council housing by central government.

“Our administration began our first in-house temporary housing, to try and ensure that families remained in area, in high quality accommodation and, although Foy House will be opening soon, it is only the very beginning of what is needed.

“I brought a Councillor Call for Action specifically to discuss this issue and our growing homelessness figures, and require the presence of central government representatives to address this. We were not even permitted to debate it at Overview and Scrutiny, because actually requiring people in positions of power to see directly what is happening here and to be questioned by our council was rejected in favour of writing yet another letter to central government, when they are simply not listening.

“I have written to central government, as Deputy Leader, and as Acting Leader, to explain that we are facing a housing crisis here, and that we desperately need more funding. I know that Councillor Jill Bayford has done the same, and central government is still not recognising that we desperately need funding to create genuinely affordable housing.

“Housing do an excellent job, under extraordinary stresses; but continual cuts in funding, at county and at district level, make their roles even more challenging, and residents lives so much harder.

“We cannot keep writing letters. Central government has to recognise the damage that is being done to our community, and the scale of funding required to even begin to remedy that damage.”

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council placed 143 households in temporary accommodation in 2021/22, down from 235 the previous year.

Dover, however, also saw an increase, with the council placing 451 households in emergency accommodation, up from 347 the previous year.

31 Comments

  1. Sadly this situation will get worse. With local authorities getting less funding from central government will add to alot of cut backs.
    People need to stop relying upon handouts.

    • All kinds of people fall into homelessness for all kinds of reasons, eviction, redundancy, abuse, separation, addiction, … relying on handouts is at the very bottom of the list of reasons why people end up homeless.

      It’s a cynical but comforting retort for many who prefer to look down on others and ignore the abysmal governance of this country in not looking after its citizens.

      • Yep, when Covid hit those moaning about scroungers/handouts that were suddenly sacked, or needing money realised they were in the same boat trying to get new claims or Furlow money from the government. How quickly people forget & go back to their Daily Mail/Sun headlines rhetoric.

    • Claim asylum your get a 5 star Hotel, free heating ,free food , free TV, nhs , free dentist and money , but British citizenship live ruff on the streets , well done to our government.

      • Your a nasty Pillock tax payer! Very nearly all asylum seekers get asylum from war, persecution, and civil unrest! One reason why there is so much homelessness is due to landlords increasing rents, and another is souring mortgage repayments! I watched the BBC documentary recently about the cost of living, and it broke my heart to see many people who are in work, including a nurse and her partner, but who can no longer afford their mortgage!

        This is all down to failed Tory policies over decades! M. Thatcher sold off council homes, and few have been built to replace them since, causing a massive amount of poorly constructed rental homes with virtually no security of tenure! Another failed Tory policy is the privatisation of nationalised industries, name one that is a success so we all benefit, you can’t!

        And now all those idiots who voted to leave the EU are beginning to wake up that it was a dismal failure too! There has not been one benefit for leaving the EU, and plenty of disadvantages. Thousands of people who thought they could retire to Spain and other EU countries, are coming home, mainly because they can’t get any health insurance now, when it was free before! Thats what voting for something you didn’t have clue about means, as no T & C’s were available, and still aren’t! Thats all down to Tory failures, who couldn’t run a bath, but cost us all in taxes!

      • Or end up with 3 & a half to 4 thousand people in a facility built for 1 thousand 6 hundred maximum for weeks or months, when you are supposed to be there for 24-48 hours maximum.

        Contract Diphtheria Norovirus, Scabies etc. Be refused a translator to process your claim, be refused to allow your family to know you are still alive, be refused to allow to use the toilet in private, be handcuffed by force with no justification being given to those investigating the facility, end up being raped in one of these ‘five star hotels’ end up dying etc.

  2. It’s easy for the smug left to wax lyrical about poor governance when increasing numbers of individuals wracked with apathy are choosing to play out their indifference over many years they cry foul when the system no longer supports them.

  3. Arrive on our shores by dinghy?
    We really do need to prioritise our own homeless first. It is so very, very wrong that we do not. WRONG!!

    And I so agree with the point raised in the article, we do so need genuinely affordable housing if we build any more new stock, ie. SOCIAL HOUSING.

  4. We’ve gone to far down the road now were money and greed .Is far more important than people. Kcc can throw 5.8 million at a train station. Then moan to the government were skint . This country is a mess.

    • I know, and then look at the state of the roads and all the flooding caused by blocked drains when it rains. Maybe KCC should spend money more wisely!

  5. Why do people stay in Thanet if they are homeless. Its bad enough living in a home down here let alone on the streets. Id go up to London, at least you might be able to make bit of spare change up there and might give you more options. Also I wouldnt want to take my chances sleeping on a bench in Margate. London or any big city would be safer surely.

    • Maybe they can’t afford the train ticket. Maybe they have made connections down here with other homeless people, or still have family here-while they may not be able to live with them, perhaps some can go there for a meal & a shower?

      Pretty sure the homeless in London have been attacked regularly, including a couple of them being set on fire by some scumbag a few years back.

      • Doesn’t sound like any huge barriers there to give it a shot.

        But I guess the psychological affect it has on someone is something I cant relate to so staying in an area you know is only option even without connections / meals and showers.

  6. i totally agree with taxpayer – to my knowledge theres no war going on in half of the countries this lot come from – definitely not albania – they are economic migrants – tell the truth

  7. I knew a woman a few years ago, middle age, professional, who was evicted from her garden flat in Ramsgate where she had lived for 15 years, taking care of the garden. Her landlord died, and her 3 children were not interested in renting out the property, and wanted to sell the building to cash in on it! I lost contact with the lady, so don’t know how she got on. This time last year an 89 year old friend was evicted from his bungalow where he had happily rented for years, and is now living with one of his daughters! Its back to Victorian slums, and scum landlords, cheers Tory’s!

      • The point is SeeSee since the Landlord & Tenancy Act introduced by M. Thatcher in 1986, there is little or no security of tenure for tenants anymore! Tenants good and bad can be turfed out of their homes at a whim, no questions asked! Thats what Tory capitalism means today!

  8. We never prioritised homelessness before so why should some immigrants make any difference?
    The fact is this is a made in UK problem that 12 years of austerity has made worse.
    What needs to happen is lots of high quality prefab housing constructed at Manston or anywhere, paid for by increased capital gains tax that these landlords are going to pay.Better still a levy on all BnB’s.

    • George Nokes, this is the second time I’ve seen prefabricated housing mentioned on this site. Unfortunately I can’t see it happening or at least not as I like to imagine it. The popularity of park homes demonstrates that many people enjoy living in compact units and while post-war prefabs were not things of beauty, they were well-designed inside and sat lightly in the (often) landscaped council estates. Modern prefabs could, given the political will and imagination, be comfortable, attractive, eco-friendly and far cheaper and more attractive than the Barratt Home style things. I guess I’m just cheered that this option gets a mention at least. Maybe …
      Incidentally, I’m a landlord and almost feel like a mug these days for charging a fair rent (hasn’t risen in 8 years), doing repairs promptly and affording my tenants privacy and respect. It is actually getting quite hard to be a small landlord.

  9. Why pretend that it’s EITHER “our” homeless OR immigrants?
    If the government was able to reduce the money spent by the Home Office on Immigration issues , they wouldn’t spend the savings on “our” homeless. They would spend it on something else. Or not spend it at all and use it to reduce taxes for the well-off.
    If everything was “either this ” or “that”, we could ,say, cancel the order for an aircraft carrier and spend the money on 40 new hospitals. Or we could close a few prisons and spend the money on some new educational facilities to train a new generation of skilled workers. Or, how about funding Social care with extra money raised by giving Scotland and north-eastern Ireland independence?
    Why not?
    Because we haven’t got the kind of government that would do that. So it’s pointless whinging about “our” homeless not getting the necessary help. The government does not prioritise them. Never has.

  10. My understanding from the above is that KCC has cut it’s county wide service by 5 million, how much of that was spent in Thanet? Given that TDC has been given just a million a year for the next 3 years to cover the same services, it’s only if Thanet received more than a million from KCC that we’re worse off.
    So could it be that the changes are actually good news? Especially as having been given the 3 million directly TDC can choose to spend it in a manner tailored to the areas needs rather than by KCC funded services which may not have been.
    As for landlords choosing to exit the sector by either selling or going into holiday lets, what do people expect when the tax and legislative regime makes renting unattractive.

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