Homelessness in Central Beds
By Antonia Ryan
Central Bedfordshire Council expect the Homelessness Reduction Act to increase the number of cases that they will have to deal with by 80%. This news was gleaned by Antonia Ryan, the Leader of the Labour Group on CBC. The government will provide some money to the council in order to help with the additional costs but nowhere near enough.
In the last year there has already been a more than doubling in the number of cases coming to CBC for help. They blame this on an increase in private rents to unaffordable levels and cuts to benefits. It is telling that in previous years anyone with rent arrears was almost always deemed to be ‘intentionally homeless’ and so ineligible for help. Now it is accepted that low wages, high rents and inadequate levels of benefit mean that people can get into arrears despite their best efforts. Consequently council officers have to spend time investigating such cases in detail. Currently CBC is advertising for additional staff to deal with this matter and the anticipated increase in cases.
The council currently has 118 families with 273 children in temporary accommodation and the length they have to stay has increased over the year to 26 weeks. It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide housing due to lack of available social housing and the unwillingness of private landlords to accept families on benefits.
On Tuesday night at full council, Councillor Ryan spoke on the local plan to include more provision for real affordable housing. She went on to stress that the plan will not help many people locally to whom ‘affordable’ housing does not match the average wage. This is apparent from the rapidly increase in the number of homeless people being put into temporary accommodation by the council.
Cllr Ryan concluded on CBC’s record of failing to enforce their own policy on the proportion of affordable housing provided by developers and stated that CBC must not only engage with developers but challenge them.
Truly affordable housing used to be provided by councils building and renting their own homes and the next step in solving this problem is for CBC to start building and managing its own houses. CBC is currently has had to purchase private sector housing to use as additional temporary accommodation.