This report sets out the Council’s developing plans to reduce the costs of temporary accommodation, bringing the budget into line with the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
Denise Gandy, Executive Director of Housing Demand, Homes for Haringey, and Alan Benson, Head of Housing Strategy and Commissioning, Haringey Council, introduced the report as set out.
Ms Gandy commenced her presentation by informing the Panel that local authorities had a statutory duty to provide Temporary Accommodation (TA) to homeless households in line with the Housing Act 1996. It was noted that TA could take the form of nightly paid self-contained flats, accommodation on longer leases sourced from private landlords or Registered Providers and accommodation within the councils own stocks. The Panel was informed nightly paid accommodation was most expensive, with an average cost of £44 per night against an average cost of £35 for a longer-term lease.
In response to questions, the Panel was informed there had been a number of significant improvements in work to better manage demand. The following points were noted:
- The steady increase in the number of homelessness preventions achieved.
- The fact homelessness prevention work had been effective. It was noted that a recent review had highlighted that over the last 5 years only 10% of households had returned for assistance.
- Homeless acceptances had decreased from a peak of 762 in 2013/14 to 683 in 2016/17. It was noted this was in contrast to the general London picture of increasing acceptances.
- In terms of year to date 90% of decisions had been made in 33 working days compared to 45% in 2016/17.
- The number of cases “under investigation” had been maintained at less than 50, from over 200 for much of 2016/17.
- To date in 2017/18, the council had accepted a full housing duty to 45% of applicants, reduced from over 60% in 2016/17.
- The average in-flow into TA had reduced from 79 months to less than 50.
- An increasing number of Assured Shorthold Tenancies had been secured in order to prevent homelessness.
In response to questions, concerning initiatives to prevent homelessness, the Panel was informed that in 2016 Homes for Haringey’s Housing Demand team underwent a restructure. It was noted that this had helped to significantly improve performance on homelessness prevention and decision making. It was noted that further changes were planned in order to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act.
Despite these improvements, the Panel was informed the budget situation remained challenging. The following points were noted:
- Although the number of households in TA was reducing the cost of providing TA remained high.
- There was a projected overspend of £800,000.
- There was a need to achieve strong prevention performance and to deliver new sources of supply.
The Panel was informed that the TA management fee had been replaced with a Flexible Homelessness Support Grant. It was noted this had created ring fenced funding which was available to invest in initiatives to reduce homelessness.
In response to questions, Mr Benson informed the Panel that the Council was investigating a range of options to increase the supply of homes to meet the need for TA. It was noted this could include the type of non-for-profit arms-length or charitable organisations, or wholly owned companies, which other local authorities had set up for this purpose and which formed a valuable mechanism for channelling right-to-buy receipts, borrowing and grants into building and acquiring new homes. In addition, it was noted options being investigated also included the types of partnerships with Housing Associations that other boroughs had entered into, which could deliver purchase and repair programme to acquire often badly managed private sector stock for use as affordable housing. It was noted that these new supply options had been listed on the Forward Plan for consideration by Cabinet in January 2018.
The following points were noted:
- The Council had agreed a £16m General Fund direct acquisitions budget. It was noted that this funding was being drawn down by Homes for Haringey, primarily to purchase and repair former right-to-buy stock and to bring it back into use as affordable housing.
- The work that was taking place to convert emergency accommodation into Assured Shorthold Tenancies.
- The work Homes for Haringey was doing to increase the number of lodges available for emergency accommodation, building on the model of Broadwater Lodge.
During the discussion, a range of issues were considered including a number of areas relating to the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) and other regeneration schemes. The Panel raised particular concerns about the impact of decanting on waiting times for TA. The importance of mapping these changes was also highlighted.
Ms Gandy concluded the presentation by providing an update on the Homelessness Reduction Act. It was noted further information on this, including the implications for Haringey, would be considered by the Panel in December 2017.
AGREED: That the report setting out the Council’s developing plans to reduce the costs of temporary accommodation be noted.