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Homelessness legislation report

Published: 17/07/2018

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be provided with an update on the management of the new legislation within the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 when it meets later this month. The Cabinet will also be asked to support the emerging themes in the Regional Homeless Strategy and to note the challenges that the Council has faced in finding suitable housing options for households. They will also review the plans to mitigate further risks as well as be asked to approve the proposals to alleviate homelessness in the County. The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 introduced new homeless legislation in April 2015. North Wales Councils are developing a Regional Strategy with local action plans in each county. The development of the strategy is progressing well and will be presented to Cabinet for sign off at the end of the year. Themes include: People (youth homelessness, rough sleepers, complex needs and prison leavers); Homes (Housing first, improved access to accommodation – supply, temporary accommodation); and Services (prevention, mitigation of welfare reform, health). The Flintshire Homeless Review identified that the availability of suitable and affordable accommodation across housing sectors is not adequate to meet the current need. The legislation has introduced an explicit focus upon the prevention of problems rather than simply processing people through crises and, if implemented effectively, aims to result in fewer households experiencing the trauma of homelessness. Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Bernie Attridge, said: “Dedicated Council officers are working hard to make a difference and improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable residents in really difficult times. Funding continues to decrease and some grant funding is getting more difficult to access, but this report shows that Flintshire is doing everything it can in the current economic climate to tackle this social dilemma.” In 2017/18, 3,495 households approached the Council for housing assistance which represents a 3.9% increase from the previous year. 1,715 of those households were assessed as being homeless or at risk of homelessness - an increase of 39% from the previous financial year. The focus, wherever possible, is to prevent homelessness and enable a household to remain in their home. To achieve this, the service needs a supply of housing options that are affordable, but there is a lack of available options and this will be a focus of the action plan. There is a short supply of suitable and available options. The numbers on the social housing register are increasing and as such waiting times for vacant properties are becoming longer, especially for single applicants. The shortage of accommodation for single people is a huge challenge in relieving homelessness. This has been exacerbated by various welfare reforms introduced since 2013. The private rented sector continues to be a housing option for many people and from the Council’s perspective it provides a further option for individuals who are urgently in need of housing. North East Wales (NEW) Homes offers a further supply of private sector options for households. However, there are increasing challenges identifying suitable and affordable properties in the private rented sector. Affordable accommodation for single households will be included in a bid to the Innovative Housing Fund. The Council will be bidding for funding to support a project that takes a ‘housing first’ approach and provides high quality housing linked with work and employment schemes for single people. In Flintshire, the Council is committed to preventing rough sleeping and currently goes beyond the statutory duty and provides interim accommodation for anyone who has nowhere to stay irrespective of their priority need status. The Council is also committed to reducing the use of Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation as a priority. Implementing change does take time and, although B&B use did increase in 2017/18, the Council has started to see numbers reduce and in the first week of June 2018 there were no families in B&B and 11 single households accommodated.