Thanet council has completed works at Foy House in Margate to provide temporary accommodation with eight one and two bedroom flats. The scheme, including building purchase and conversion, came in at £1.6m and will have operating costs for housing management and support service, repairs and maintenance and other associated costs of around £25-30,000 per year.
The newly refurbished flats will provide temporary accommodation for people and families with urgent housing needs, who are being supported by the council. Immediate needs can occur for a variety of reasons, such as fleeing domestic abuse, marital breakdown, losing a job or being unable to pay rent. The project aims to provide a safe and supported home until new accommodation can be found.
Cllr Jill Bayford, Cabinet Member for Housing at Thanet District Council said: “I am delighted that this project is now complete. Keeping our residents safe is a key priority for the council, and supporting those who don’t have secure accommodation is just one part of our overall strategy to support the housing needs of local residents.
“More than this, the redevelopment of Foy House will breathe new life into a once derelict building and further support the regeneration of Margate High Street.”
The project was first approved in 2019 by the then-Labour administration. The property was formerly owned by Orbit Housing but was declared surplus to need in 2017.
Further temporary accommodation plans
Thanet council is aiming to expand its temporary accommodation by taking on a second project with £2.22m earmarked to buy another building or land or new build property.
In a report to Thanet council Cabinet members, it says: “It was always considered, as part of the business case for this project, that further projects would increase the potential savings, as a larger portfolio of accommodation would be able to share some costs, such as, for example, a project manager.
“Further projects would also continue to improve the outcomes for homeless households as they would enhance the supply of temporary accommodation within the district.
“On this basis a further business case was prepared for a phase 2 project, and £2.22m was included within the draft 2023/25 general fund capital programme for an additional temporary accommodation scheme.
“Spread over two financial years the funding will enable the purchase of an additional building or land for conversion or new build construction of phase 2. Included within this funding is the 2023/24 allocation of New Home Bonus, totalling £415k.”
Thanet council’s draft budget for 2023-24, due to be approved at Full Council in February, also includes £800k in the temporary accommodation budget, together with a further £100k from the homelessness reserve.
The report says: “This funding is the result of growing pressures on homelessness services, both locally and nationally, and will support the revenue costs of temporary accommodation. In addition to the additional units delivered through the capital programme above, officers will consider options to lease or rent accommodation where it is cost effective to do so.”
The information will be discussed by council Cabinet members at a meeting on January 26. It has been published in a report to members in response to a ‘motion’ tabled by Labour’s Helen Whitehead last October outlining the need for further temporary housing units immediately.
Cllr Whitehead also previously suggested using New Homes Bonus funding from government for emergency accommodation. This use of the funding is now included in the draft 2023-24 council budget.
She said: “I’m incredibly happy that Foy House is finally completed and the in house temporary accommodation that we fought so hard for as an administration is established.
“ I am also very glad that my proposal of using the New Homes Bonus to purchase further temporary accommodation has been adopted this year; although adoption of the proposal last year, rather than rejection, would have allowed us to do far more, as both time and funding have to be prioritised in order to ensure that we can keep all residents requiring temporary accommodation in Thanet, and close to their support networks.
“Continuing investment in our in house temporary housing is an absolute priority; ensuring that we can keep residents near families, schools and jobs while we find long term accommodation is essential.”
Last November Conservative council leader Ash Ashbee revealed plans to use the former student accommodation at the ex-uni campus in Broadstairs for emergency accommodation.
Cllr Ashbee said the council had been working to secure the premises, on the former Canterbury Christ Church University Thanet campus, for emergency accommodation.
At that time she said the council was close to being able to put in a “complete offer” for the site, adding: “The accommodation is set out into single rooms and would not have been suitable for families unless we did some work. We didn’t want to take it on as single rooms and had a design to try and provide between 16-20 units suitable for families.”
Thanet council is also carrying out phase 4 of its build, buy and refurbish programme to provide social homes in the district with an £8.8million projected spend for up to 36 homes.
The programme is paid for through the council’s housing revenue account, right-to-buy proceeds and funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Phase 3 provided new build council homes in King Street and Sussex Street, Ramsgate.
Thanet council plans to increase the number of new build council homes in the latest phase from 36 to 61 and will fund it by transferring £8.1 million earmarked for phase 5 to the current build as well as increasing the budget for 2024/25 by £0.2m.
Phase 4 of the affordable housing development programme covers the 2020-24 financial years. It includes the purchase of 14 properties which has already been completed at a cost of £3.4million.
Twenty-two new homes were due to be started on site in March 2023 and this will now be increased to 47 homes. The council plans for some of the units to be infill sites on existing estates including, Staner Court and Clements Road.
Thanet council has also bought the former Dane Valley Arms site in Millmead which, the authority says, has capacity for 20 homes and there are detailed design proposals for infill sites in and around Tomlin Drive, where garages are being brought down to make way for between 9-11 homes.
It is anticipated that a planning applications for Tomlin Drive, Staner Court and Clements Road will be submitted in the coming months, following consultation with neighbouring communities.
Since 2015 a total of 313 affordable homes have been provided by the council and its Housing Association partners. However, there is an identified need for 548 affordable homes in Thanet to be created per year. The council says new initiatives to increase the supply of new affordable homes are needed. The homes are council/social housing for those on the housing waiting list.
Housing waiting list
There are 1804 households on the housing waiting list in Thanet. The most recent rough sleeper count recorded 11 people on the streets and 45 people receiving assistance from the RISE homelessness team. Some 199 households are in temporary accommodation.
Thanet council receives around 1,000 homelessness applications each year. The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply.
Thanet council Housing Team 01843 577277
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