Harrogate homes in temporary accommodation hits record high

Harrogate Borough Council
Harrogate Borough Council

The number of households living in temporary accommodation across the district is at the highest its been since records began in 2013/14.

Figures from Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) 2015/16 Year End Finance and Performance Report showed that 71 household across the district were now in temporary accommodation.

This figure was 42 per cent higher than the council’s target for the year and an increase of 18 households since 2014/15.

The average length of stay in bed and breakfast accommodation for households with children or pregnant women was 3.33 weeks in 2015/16; an increase of 1.62 weeks (95%) on the 1.71 weeks in 2014/15.

Shadow cabinet member for Housing, Coun Trevor Chapman (Lib Dem, New Park) raised the issue at a meeting of the Full Council last Wednesday.

Coun Chapman told the Advertiser: “The figures are quite alarming. The worrying thing is we all know about the shortfall of housing and the increasing amount on homelessness across the country.

“Our concern is not only a shortage of housing generally, but we are desperately short of affordable and social housing. This has been exacerbated by the Right to Buy Scheme.

“Tenants now have a right to buy their social housing but these houses have not been replaced. So with the lack of affordable and social housing some families are in a desperate situation.

“Being somewhere temporary is not an ideal arrangement but it’s all that can be provided. The real solution is to have a better housing supply for people to be put into.”

Coun Chambers explained that the requirement for temporary accommodation has increased in Harrogate, as it has done across the country, with the amount of homelessness also on the rise.

The report, published by HBC, also revealed that two of the actions to support reducing homelessness in the 2015/16 Service Plan had not been completed.

A long term sustainable funding solution had not yet been identified with the Harrogate Homeless Project with the No Second Night Out scheme requesting a further grant.

During the meeting, Coun Chambers admitted the situation was not where they wanted to be but stressed the council was taking steps to address the problem.

He told the Full Council meeting: “I would readily admit that the situation is not where we want to be but it isn’t from the lack of trying. We are trying to keep those numbers down.

“One of the issues we need to address is that we have a number of accommodations that are rented out in the private sector.

“Previously, the council would pay off tenants’ arrears so that they did not lose their accommodation. But these preventions are now decreasing under the new Housing Act.

“As a result, these properties are being taken back by the private owners and then out at much greater rates.”

As well as blaming private landlords charging tenant exorbiant rates for the increase of homelessness, Coun Chambers criticised the rate of new homes being built across the borough.

As a result, the council has bought a small number of homes in locations including Glasshouses, Topcliffe and Knaresborough and are beginning to move residents in to these.

Coun Chambers revealed that there are plans to purchase a new hostel in Harrogate and said the council are trying to reduce the amount of time they take to move people into permanent accommodation.

He said: “The bottom line is we are not building enough houses. The government has recognised that and has put in place certain procedures to move housing forward.

“But we also need the right sort of housing and that is difficult. There are a number that have been accepted but they are not moving forward with any great speed.

“It’s very difficult for children in temporary accommodation, we are aware of that.

“But, we do whatever we can with families to try and get them in our own hostel accommodation and then on to something more permanent.”