Rise in people living in temporary accommodation due to ‘systematic erosion of funding’

Hastings Borough Council said the increase in the number of people living in temporary accommodation was 'well predicted'
Hastings Borough Council said the increase in the number of people living in temporary accommodation was 'well predicted'

The number of people living in temporary accommodation in Hastings has increased by almost 25 per cent in the past 12 months, according to figures released by homeless charity Crisis.

The figures showed a total of 92 people in the town were living in temporary accommodation in 2018, up by 18 since the end of 2017.

This figure has increased by more than 600 per cent since 2010 when 13 people were living in temporary accommodation, according to Crisis figures.

Councillor Andy Batsford, Hastings Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said the increase was ‘well predicted’ due to the ‘systematic erosion of funding by this government’.

He said: “The sad increase in those Hastings residents needing to access temporary accommodation was well predicted in advance of these figures being published. The systematic erosion of funding to the support agencies and networks by this government coupled with the introduction of the ill thought out universal credits has brewed a perfect storm leaving families and individuals vulnerable and exposed to the threat of homelessness.

“I’m proud of the proactive and multi-agency approach the housing officers at Hastings council have always taken, in some respect trail blazing well before the Homelessness Act was introduced, but there is always more to be done and we are determined within the new homelessness strategy we will continue to provide a service that is not only reactive in times of crisis but actively address those issues for residents that threaten their secure homes.”

Councillor Batsford referred to the Homelessness Reduction Act which was implemented by the Government in April.

The act was designed to place additional duties on housing authorities to provide more support in the form of personalised plans earlier in the eviction process. The Government provided local authorities across England with £61 million over 2017/18 and 2018/19 to support the implementation of the act.

However, Hastings Borough Council said there was ‘widespread concern’ the proposed funding would be insufficient to meet the new responsibilities.

In July 2017, a new Flexible Homelessness Support Grant (FHSG) was awarded to Hastings Borough Council by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to help cover the additional costs associated with temporary housing costs for homeless households, according to documents seen by this newspaper.

The ring-fenced grant was fixed for a period of two years to 2019 to ‘help minimise the impact of additional accommodation costs on authorities’.

Council figures showed homeless applications in Hastings had risen by 120 per cent to 579 since 2013/2014, while the number of people rough sleeping had climbed 73 per cent to 26 in the same period.

Since 2014, the average cost of a one-bed property in the town had risen by 37 per cent, while the average rent for a one-bed property had increased by 42 per cent, council figures showed.

Hastings Borough Council put the main reason for homelessness in the town down to the ‘loss of rented or tied accommodation due to termination of assured short hold tenancy’ which accounted for 115 of the 579 homeless applications.