The statistics for 2015/16 relating to people who approach Swindon Council as homeless or being threatened with homelessness show a worsening situation.

  • In 2015/16 the number of households approaching the council as homeless was 559. Two years previously it was only 225.

  • The number of households accepted as homeless and “in priority need” (see Addendum for explanation) has risen by 50% over the last two years; from 110 to 165.

  • The number of households living in temporary accommodation has increased by 78% over the last two and a half years, from 201 to 359.

From the figures it’s clear that Swindon Council is finding it increasingly difficult to deal with what is a growing problem. In 2009/10 they managed to assist 956 households in preventing or relieving homelessness. Yet by last year they were able to achieve this in only 287 cases.

The number of households they were able to help obtain alternative accommodation (where they were faced with the loss of their existing accommodation) fell from 757 in 2009/10 to just 242 in 2015/16. (Read on below or download a PDF here homelessnessstatsswindon )

The council is having to rely more and more on using the private rented sector as their own stock numbers continue to decline1. In 2015/16 the council and housing associations had to lease 230 private sector properties as compared to 95 two years earlier. Because private rents are higher than council or housing association rents this is more expensive where tenants are eligible for Local Housing Allowance.

Changes to benefits has made the task of council officers more difficult, especially when it relates to young people. The government increased the age at which tenants were only eligible for the shared accommodation rate (SAR) of £60.04 a week from 24 to 35. Swindon Housing Action Campaign has shown that the average rent for shared accommodation in Swindon was £1,905.92 above the SAR payment (see http://swindonhousingaction.org/swindon-private-sector-rents-rip-off ). So those eligible for SAR may not be able to afford shared accommodation even if they qualify for the full LHA rate. A one bed property is £3,500 more than the SAR rate.

The situation will be exacerbated by the fact that private rents will continue to rise but the government has frozen the Local Housing Allowance for four years. LHA rates are set at the 30th percentile. In other words it is only enough to be able to afford the cheapest 30% of properties available in the local area. Around a quarter of cases of homelessness are a result of the ending of short-hold tenancies in the private sector.

A local authority has no duty to secure accommodation for all people who are homeless. For instance there is no statutory duty to secure housing for homeless single people nor couples without children who are not deemed to be vulnerable.

If you are eligible for public funds, have a connection to the local area and are ‘unintentionally homeless’, you will still then need to be considered ‘in priority need’ in order to be considered ‘statutorily homeless’.” Crisis – The national charity for homeless people

Council officers will try to help people to find other alternatives if they can. Swindon Council’s homelessness section has arrangements with landlords for around 430 properties. For a rent guarantee the landlords charge a rent slightly lower than the market rate. Without these arrangements the situation would obviously be much worse.

However, rent levels, and government policy (such as the change in SAR policy) make their task increasingly difficult. It’s no wonder that the phenomenon of people paying rent to live in garages and ‘beds in sheds’ has emerged in Swindon. When a landlord was fined for renting unsafe accommodation, Rebecca Martin, a Swindon Borough Council Environmental Health Officer told the Swindon Advertiser:

‘Beds in sheds’ as they are known are increasingly becoming a problem locally and nationally and it appears that landlords feel they can get away with providing sub-standard accommodation.”

Martin Wicks

January 6th 2016

Addendum

‘In priority need’

  • a pregnant woman

  • dependent child

  • someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness, learning disability or physical disability

  • someone homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster

  • someone aged 16 or 17

  • aged under 21 years old where they have been in local authority care between the ages of 16 and 18

  • aged 21 and over who are vulnerable as result of leaving local authority care

  • vulnerable armed forces leavers

  • vulnerable prison leavers

  • vulnerable as a result of fleeing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence.

Statutory Homelessness Statistics Swindon

Decisions made

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

Numbers being accepted as homeless and in priority need

98

92

110

120

110

163

165

Eligible homeless, and in priority need but intentionally

46

55

53

51

31

67

79

Eligible homeless but not in priority need

29

38

46

46

25

33

57

Eligible but not homeless

54

65

99

64

53

83

258

Total decisions

227

250

308

281

225

346

559

Households accommodated by the authority on March 31st

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

Bed and Breakfast

15

5

6

4

0

0

5

LA/HA stock

124

85

70

76

85

96

90

Private sector leased by LA/HA

128

133

110

95

110

171

230

Total in temporary accommodation

311

256

202

181

201

273

329

Reported cases of homelessness, prevention and relief

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

Number of cases where positive action was successful in preventing homelessness

Able to remain in existing home

30

53

42

73

55

27

28

Assisted to obtain alternative accommodation

727

347

427

330

325

298

242

Total

757

402

469

403

380

325

270

No of cases where positive action was successful in relieving homelessness

199

275

115

179

96

35

17

Total cases of prevention and relief

956

677

584

582

476

360

287

1As a result of the government increasing discounts for right to buy 216 council homes have been sold in the past 4 years as compared to 45 in the previous 4 years. The number of properties that the council owns has declined to less that 10,300. What little new building the council is doing is insufficient to replace the homes lost.

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