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Agenda item

Temporary Accommodation Pressures (Information Item)

Decision:

RESOLVED: That:

           

            A referral be sent to Mayor and Cabinet with the following:

           

The Committee recommends that:

a)    It supports the policy option to change the local connection policy, from two years to five years

b)    It supports the policy option to discharge the Council’s homeless duty into the private rented sector – in or out of borough. However, the Committee would like the policy to be reviewed annually. In addition, with regards to the list of exclusions from this approach recommended by Housing officers, the Committee would like the following exclusions to be added:

i)             Certain specified medical conditions

ii)            Those with disabilities

iii)           Members of the Armed Forces, in line with the Council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

 

Minutes:

5.1      Genevieve Macklin (Head of Strategic Housing) gave a presentation to the meeting. The key points to note were:

 

  • The Council is using a number of strategies to manage the individuals and families that are currently in temporary accommodation, and this is causing budgetary pressures.
  • Homelessness applications have gone up by 50% in less than three years. Acceptances on a homeless duty have gone up by 20% in the same period. About 50% of these have lost their accommodation in the private sector (for a number of reasons) and that is the growing trend across London.
  • Lewisham are in the top 3rd of London Borough in Homeless Acceptances for 2013-14 and 2014-15 (April-September).
  • One of the issues that has also caused the growing trend in those presenting as homeless has been the Welfare Reform changes brought in by the Coalition Government and this is causing added pressure on resources. The cap on welfare benefits means that the Council still has to cover the shortfall on temporary accommodation and this has led to an overspend of £1.1m in 2013-14, and a projected overspend of £2.5m in 2014-15. Further overspends of £2.4m in 2015/16 and £1.9m in 2016/17 are projected.
  • To alleviate the budgetary pressures, officers presented three policy options for the Committee to consider:
    • Changing the local connection policy, from two years to five years
    • Suspending choice based lettings and making direct allocations to homeless households
    • Discharging our homeless duty into the private rented sector   in or out of borough.
  • A number of London Boroughs have already changed their local connections policy to five years such as Greenwich, Southwark and Bromley. Changing the policy would mean that Lewisham would fall in line with fellow local boroughs. However there is a risk of a perverse incentive:  if you don’t have five years local connection then homelessness is the only route into social housing.
  • There are a number of benefits to suspending the choice based lettings, such as it has the potential to reduce backlog and expense, reduce the length of time individuals and families spend in temporary accommodation, and more Council control over the “queue”. However it removes choice, and may lead to more challenges and complaints. It also may be more complicated and costly to administer, especially considering welfare reform and affordable rents for example. There is no certainty this policy would do much more than now (80% of lets to homeless) and there is no precedent
  • With discharging into the private rented sector in or out of the borough, half of all homeless households were previously PRS tenants, so the PRS would not be new to them. Also, other boroughs are already using the power, so the precedent exists and there is risk from us not being in line with neighbouring boroughs.A well-managed approach would offer a new policy tool to be used only in certain circumstances, which could send a message to decouple homelessness and social housing. There would also be an extensive number of exclusions from such an approach, for example care leavers, people with support needs which make the PRS unsustainable and older residents to name a few.

 

5.2       In response to questions from the Committee, the following was noted:

 

§  Members of the Committee have previously stated their support for a change of policy to extend the local connection from two years to five years before applicants are eligible to join the housing register.

§  Members would like officers to provide more information to the Committee at a later date so it can consider further the option to suspend choice based lettings and make direct allocations to homeless households.

§  The advice from officers is that the power to discharge the Council’s homeless duty into the private rented sector – in or out of borough – is a tool they would like to obtain. However, it is the Committee’s opinion that this power, if adopted, should only be used in certain circumstances, and be annually reviewed.

 

5.3      RESOLVED: That:

           

            A referral be sent to Mayor and Cabinet with the following:

           

The Committee recommends that:

a)    It supports the policy option to change the local connection policy, from two years to five years

b)    It supports the policy option to discharge the Council’s homeless duty into the private rented sector – in or out of borough. However, the Committee would like the policy to be reviewed annually. In addition, with regards to the list of exclusions from this approach recommended by Housing officers, the Committee would like the following exclusions to be added:

i)             Certain specified medical conditions

ii)            Those with disabilities

iii)           Members of the Armed Forces, in line with the Council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

 

Supporting documents: