A new homelessness strategy is an important part of this.
A council press release:
BOLD and ambitious measures to tackle the housing crisis in Reading are being put forward in the council’s draft Homelessness Strategy.
The five-year plan includes building new council homes, providing modular temporary accommodation, setting up a new wholly-owned housing company and working more closely with the private rented sector.
Demand for affordable housing in Reading significantly outstrips supply while the number of people on the council’s housing register continues to grow.
As a result, the council is using more temporary accommodation, including Bed & Breakfast, which is putting pressure on the council’s budget at a time when the authority has sustained reductions in government funding of 40 per cent since 2013/14. B&B is also unsuitable and disruptive for homeless households.
New measures announced by the Chancellor earlier this year also dramatically reduced the council’s planned house building programme.
However, the council is committed to preventing homelessness wherever possible and to reducing the use of B&B and has been exploring all possible solutions.
The key three strands of the Homelessness Strategy are the prevention of homelessness, increasing the supply of temporary accommodation and increasing the supply of affordable permanent housing across all sectors:
Prevention of Homelessness
The council is working with partner organisations in the town to ensure tailored information about housing advice and support is available, for example, for young people seeking accommodation.
Evictions from private accommodation is one of the key reasons for homelessness and the private sector is critical to meeting future housing needs, so the council is creating and maintaining excellent working relationships with private landlords to raise standards of practice and accommodation.
Increasing the Supply of Temporary Accommodation
A planning application is being worked up to provide 18 new modular homes on council land at Lowfield Road, Caversham, to provide self-contained accommodation at a cost of £1.2 million. The units will provide warm, safe and fully equipped homes to meet urgent needs, reduce the number of families in B&B and reduce council expenditure by up to £234,000 per year.
A number of empty flats in Dee Park, which will form part of the regeneration project in the future, are being brought back into use for the benefit of local homeless families who have had to be placed in B&Bs outside Reading. The flats are not expected to be demolished until at least 2017. They will be let as temporary accommodation until they are required.
Increasing the Supply of Affordable Permanent Housing
Officers are seeking approval to work up a detailed business case to establish a housing company wholly-owned by Reading Borough Council. The company would buy properties on the open market with a proportion let at full market rent levels to cross-subsidise other homes rented at sub-market rents, aligned with housing benefit levels, to households at risk of homelessness.
The council is considering implementing new powers which will allow it to fulfil its homelessness duty of provision by placing people in suitable private rented accommodation. Properties would be sourced through the council’s recently launched Rent Guarantee Scheme (RGS) and potentially through the council’s own housing company.
Plans to build 1,000 council homes over 30 years had to be revised as a result of measures introduced in the Chancellor’s July emergency budget. However, the council is pushing ahead with plans to build 40 homes in Conwy Close, Tilehurst. This is in addition to 10 supported living flats now being built at Whitley Rise.
Other sites which cannot now be funded through the council’s new homes programme are being reviewed to see if there are other opportunities to increase the supply of affordable homes.
Councillor Richard Davies, Reading’s lead councillor for housing, said:
“The proposals we are putting forward in the draft Homelessness Strategy constitute a serious plan to tackle the problems of homelessness and long-term bed & breakfast stays which can have such an impact on Reading families.
“The plans are bold and ambitious, there is no doubt about that, but we have to do everything we can to tackle this unprecedented homeless problem caused by failure of the government to give people hope of an affordable, secure place to live.”
Members of the council’s Housing, Neighbourhood and Leisure Committee will consider the draft Homelessness Strategy at a meeting on Wednesday 18th November.
The council is also hosting a Housing Summit at Reading Town Hall on Tuesday 17th November.
The Housing Crisis – Reading’s Response: A Call to Action’ is a public event which will involve a host of organisations which could play a part in working with the council to tackle the current situation.
The evening will include talks from industry experts and workshops involving all attendees.
Cllr Davies said:
“This summit will be a call to action to a wide range of people across our town to come and bring their ideas to help the council deal with the Housing Crisis in Reading.
“I look forward to discussing what action the council is proposing and hearing what others have to contribute.”
Notes for Editors:
The Homelessness Strategy 2015-2020 can be seen here: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/4731/Housing-Neighbourhoods-and-Leisure-Committee-18-NOV-2015
You are invited to send a reporter/photographer to the Housing Summit which is taking place between 5.30pm and 8pm at Reading Town Hall on Tuesday 17th November.