More properties in Stafford for homeless
Two extra homes are set to be made available for Stafford Borough residents needing temporary accommodation.
Stafford Borough Council provides accommodation for homeless households through properties it leases from social landlord Stafford and Rural Homes (SARH) or bed and breakfast (B&B) facilities.
The latter option costs the authority far more than leasing properties however, and B&B is also considered unsuitable for families with children, other than in an emergency.
Stafford Borough Council is now looking to reduce dependence on B&B usage by taking on a further two units of temporarily leased accommodation from SARH. On Wednesday the council’s cabinet agreed for a one bedroom and two bedroom property to be leased from SARH using a flexible arrangement.
The authority currently leases six properties from SARH: four to provide temporary accommodation for homeless residents and a further two that have been specifically taken on for a household that cannot currently be permanently resettled and a resident with “no resource to public funds but significant health conditions”. The costs for the latter case are being met by Staffordshire County Council.
A report to the cabinet revealed that in 2018/19 the total number of nights spent in B&B and temporary leased accommodation “increased significantly” compared to previous years following the introduction of the Homelessness Act in April 2018.
It added: “Spend on B&B has more than tripled between 2017/18 and 2018/19, rising to nearly £152,000, or, just under £100,000 when housing benefit has been recovered. Total cost for the leased accommodation in 2018/19 was £29,500.
“The temporary accommodation units are approximately £6,800 for a one-bed and £8,500 for a two-bed for the year including all costs. Most of the charge for the temporary accommodation units is claimed back through Housing Benefit.
“Going forward it is proposed that electricity and gas charges will be met by the household, rather than the council, which is in line with permanent accommodation where the household will be paying these costs.
“With costs included and housing benefit recovery, two additional leased units are likely to cost the authority approximately £3,700 per year. The equivalent cost of having a single person and family in B&B for the same period of time would be nearly £18,000 on current housing benefit recovery rates; therefore the saving on B&B costs if two additional units are taken on is likely to be in the region of £14,300.
“There are additional health and wellbeing advantages of having people in leased accommodation as opposed to B&B. It enables households to prepare cooked meals, demonstrate they are able to hold down a successful tenancy (which improves the rehousing opportunities) and in some cases, being in leased accommodation enables access to social care services which may be difficult to obtain when in a single room in a B&B.”
Figures presented to the cabinet revealed that during 2018/19 67 households were placed in B&Bs, while 12 were placed in leased accommodation. The longest stay for a household in a B&B was 174 nights and the average stay length was 39. The longest stay for a household in leased accommodation was 162 nights and the average stay was 67.
Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for communities, told Wednesday’s meeting: “This council has a duty to support the most vulnerable in Stafford and we do that when they lose their homes through use of temporary accommodation and B&B. Temporary accommodation is preferable.”