Council preparing for new homelessness act

Homelessness. File photo.
Homelessness. File photo.

Changes are set to be made to council policies following the introduction of a national law to prevent homelessness.

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which was introduced last Tuesday (April 3), local authorities must assess all eligible applicants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, identify their needs, and provide them with a personalised housing plan.

Previously, people were only given assistance if they were likely to become homeless within 28 days. The introduction of the new act has extended this time frame to 56 days, forcing councils to find accommodation for ‘at risk’ people earlier.

Hastings Borough Council says the town achieves more homelessness preventions than other local authority in the region. However the town has seen a significant rise in the number of households becoming homeless, alongside a rise in rough sleeping in recent years.

Andrew Palmer, Hastings Borough Council’s assistant director responsible for housing, said: “The statistics reflect broader national trends. The Act provides councils with an opportunity to improve the quality and timeliness of their interventions, but there remains a significant shortage of affordable housing locally, which hampers the ability of the partners to find permanent solutions to local housing problems.”

The HRA states that it is now ‘unlikely’ that councils intervening only after residents are evicted from their former homes will be considered reasonable, and councils must now attempt to provide accommodation before the landlord begins eviction proceedings.

Mr Palmer said: “The council has made good progress in preparing for the new responsibilities, but it cannot deliver the requirements of the Act alone – homelessness is everybody’s problem.

“We have also reviewed our working practices and are developing new approaches and housing solutions with partners across health, social care, the voluntary sector, as well as private landlords. 

“We have recruited extra staff to deal with the additional workload.”

The HRA will ensure everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status. Local authorities would be required to provide or secure the provision of free services to give people information on preventing homelessness, securing accommodation if homeless, the rights of people who are homeless and any help that is available.

Written by Kayleigh Bolingbroke