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17.03.16

Councils warn new homelessness measures don’t go far enough

Councils and charities have welcomed new funding to tackle homelessness announced in yesterday’s Budget, but warned that wider action to tackle the housing crisis is needed.

The Budget includes £100m to provide at least 2,000 low-cost ‘second stage’ accommodation for those leaving hostel accommodation and domestic abuse refuges, £10m over two years to support innovative ways to prevent rough sleeping, particularly in London, an increase in funding for the Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond from £5m to £10m, and plans to return rough sleeping EU migrants to their home countries.

New figures released last month show rough sleeping in England increased by 30% in one year.

However, Cllr Peter Box, housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “It is a tragedy when anyone becomes homeless and councils have strategies in place to prevent it happening in the first place. This not only includes placing people in accommodation but also focuses on helping people develop the skills needed to find work or improving their health and wellbeing. Any additional support will help and councils must have the full funding and flexibilities to respond to local need.

“Councils are desperate to build the new homes that meet local need but housing reforms that reduce rents and force councils to sell their homes will make building new homes, including supported housing for the vulnerable, far more difficult. This risks leaving councils with fewer options but to place vulnerable homelessness people in the more expensive private rented sector.

“With 68,000 people already currently living in temporary accommodation, more than a million more on council waiting lists and annual homelessness spending of £330m – there is a real fear that this lack of homes will increase homelessness and its associated costs."

The Budget also includes plans to use £60m of the £630m raised by a 3% increase in stamp duty land tax on additional properties to fund new community-led housing trusts in rural and coastal areas, including through community land trusts, and measures to speed up planning applications.

Cllr Neil Clarke, chair of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), said: “DCN welcomes the additional funding to allow strategic housing authorities, including district councils, to tackle homelessness. In our view, such funding should be distributed in a simple and straightforward manner, without the need for an overly-bureaucratic bid process.”

Jon Sparkes, CEO of homelessness charity Crisis, welcomed the announcement but added: “If the government is serious about tackling homelessness, it needs to go much further than this. Without stronger action, including a change in the law and the funding to make it work, these measures do little to tackle the underlying problems, both in the law and with conditions in the housing market.”

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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