Why didn’t SBC demand the government honour its commitment on homelessness funding?

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This is a media release from Swindon Housing Action Campaign

Swindon Council has given the impression that its proposal to buy 100 homes on the market into which they will put homeless people is motivated by a concern to deal with the homelessness crisis. Look carefully at the Cabinet documents and you can see this isn’t the case. The reason they have proposed this is because the government is cutting Swindon’s funding for homelessness prevention and relief. The new grant system which is being introduced is £400,000 less than the council received in 2016-17. This is despite the fact that the government promised:

No local authority will receive less annual funding under the (new) grant than we estimate they would have received under the Department of Works & Pension fee.”

It’s therefore strange that Swindon Council failed to press the government to honour this commitment. The government statement on the new “flexible homelessness grant” was published on March 15th, together with the allocations each council would receive. Yet the council did nothing to respond to the loss £400,000 for more than five weeks. When they did eventually (on April 24th) write a very meek email to the department asking how they made their calculation, it was only after tenants pointed out the discrepancy, and pressed the council to demand that the government honour it’s commitment. More

“Statutory homelessness” in Swindon

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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 ) More

Let them live in garages?

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George Osborne’s Autumn statement was bad news for people who stand no chance of obtaining a mortgage. There was no funding for building homes with ‘social rent’ which offer an alternative to the expensive private rental sector (PRS). Osborne is lining the pockets of the big builders by handing over to them £2.3 billion to subsidise a 20% cut in the price of ‘Starter Homes’.

The abandonment of any support for building ‘social rent’ homes will increase the shortage of genuinely affordable homes for rent as Council homes are sold off and not replaced. This shortage is reflected in the PRS in Swindon. Councillors and Council officers have started to find people renting garages to live in. The fact that such a situation can exist in our supposedly affluent town is shameful. It’s not something you would do if you had an alternative.

At the same time we have begun to find ‘gazumping’ in the PRS. Taking advantage of the shortage of affordable homes to rent some unscrupulous landlords are making would-be tenants compete with each other for a tenancy by offering rent way above the original asking asking price.

Both of these things are reflections of an imbalance in housing in the town. The phenomenal increase in the PRS from less than 6,000 at the time of the 2001 census to over 16,000 today is the result of a shortage of Council housing combined with a growing gulf between house prices and earnings.

Swindon Housing Action Campaign has been launched precisely to highlight the human consequences of this housing crisis and to campaign against exploitative landlords. The government has abandoned to their fate those people who cannot afford a mortgage. In London and other places we have read about ‘beds in sheds’. In Swindon we now have beds in garages. It’s a shameful indictment of a failed housing policy.

Martin Wicks

Swindon Housing Action Campaign

For further comment ring 07786 394593

SHAC can be contacted by email at housingaction@btinternet.com

Government ends term with 55% rise in illegal B&B use

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26 March 2015 By Daniel Douglas, Inside Housing

The number of families in bed and breakfast for longer than six weeks as at 31 December 2014 was 55% higher than the year before, according to official statistics released today.

The latest Department for Communities and Local Government figures show 780 families were in B&Bs at the end of last year for six weeks or more compared with 500 at the end of the year before.

The stats show a total of 2,040 families were in bed and breakfast-style accommodation at the end of 2014, which was a 31% rise from 1,560 the year before. More

Benefit cuts raise homelessness fears

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07/12/2012 | By Carl Brown, Inside Housing

Sector voices fears over impact on homelessness and rental income

Fresh welfare cuts will force people out of the private rented sector, increase homelessness and put pressure on social landlords, housing experts have warned.

George Osborne on Wednesday announced the government will axe a further £3.7 billion from the welfare bill by capping the rate most working-age benefits will rise.

Increases in local housing allowance base rates, which are used to calculate housing benefit for private renters, will be capped at 1 per cent for two years from April 2014 to save £225 million a year by 2015/16.

Housing experts fear this will cause claimants’ income to fall further behind rising rent levels, making the private rented sector unaffordable in some areas.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homelessness charity Broadway, said: ‘It [the cap] will increase personal debt, lead to more evictions and we will see [private] landlords less likely to want to rent to people on benefit.’ More

A cruel, cruel world

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23/11/2012 | By Julie Fawcett, Inside Housing

It’s clear that the squeeze is getting worse and the effects are already being felt. Just spend a day at Stockwell Park Community Trust, where I work, if you want to see the truth.

A young mum, having just been through a horrendous incident of domestic violence has been offered a flat in Manchester. Lonely, confused and depressed, she cannot face uprooting herself from London and the only support network she knows. She has made poor decisions about her life in the past and she is not in a place right now to make any better ones. Legally she is an adult, but she is a child of the state. She is floundering as all the phone calls she is making in desperation to try to get help are drawing a resounding blank. More

Regime Change

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Regime change

By Jules Birch, Inside Housing

09/11/2012

Anyone applying to their local authority as homeless faces a new regime from today and there are real doubts about how it will work on the ground.

The new power for local authorities to discharge their duty to homeless people into the private rented sector represents a fundamental break with the system established in the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act in 1977.

Under the previous law, anyone accepted as homeless could wait for a social tenancy and the council had to provide temporary accommodation until one came up. Increasingly, councils have offered applicants private tenancies under housing options work but people could still choose to reject them and apply as homeless instead. More

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