To receive an update on homelessness provision from the Public Health & Housing Manager.
The Chair explained why this item had appeared on the agenda and why the Public Health & Housing Manager had been invited.
The Public Health & Housing Manager provided a detailed overview of the service the Housing Options Team provides and the pressures they face.
Statutory duties include re-housing, preventing and relieving homelessness. The Team also administer the Council’s application to the Devon Home Choice process. Methods of intervention for re-housing include grants or loan funds for tenants to secure accommodation, typically for deposits and rents in advance. Loan or grant funds are administered to clear rent and/or mortgage arrears to prevent homelessness. Placing people in temporary accommodation is a method to help prevent homelessness.
The Public Health & Housing Manager listed the current types of accommodation TDC use to house people which include hostels owned by the Council, properties rented from private Landlords and Bed & Breakfasts, how these properties are currently occupied was explained and that the Housing Options Team rely heavily on a local holiday park in Westward Ho!.
It was advised that the changing housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated challenges and led to an increase in homelessness.
The Housing Business Plan includes a review of temporary accommodation strategy and empty properties.
Currently there is a planning application in for a change of use on a TDC property to change from commercial use to residential use to add to the accommodation on offer.
The Public Health & Housing Manager advised she was happy to take questions and gave the following answers:
· there is no blanket approach to people if they have become homeless due to rent arrears and how they are supported by TDC is down to individual circumstances;
· TDC do have an Empty Homes Policy however it is not fit for purpose. The empty homes process is very slow and officer intensive;
· if Members have a resident in need of help, then encourage them to contact the Housing Options Team as soon as possible as advice and support can be given to help prevent homelessness;
· modular housing had been discounted previously due to issues surrounding this topic, however any ideas or suggestions could be put forward to investigate. Talks had taken place with Mid Devon however they have their own housing stock. A suitable site would need to be looked into for modular housing
· the 1st draft of the Temporary Accommodation Strategy would be ready by the end of the year. Workshops had already taken place to discuss this. The Chief Executive advised that legislation at Central Government level would need to change before ideas from the workshop could be implemented however, another option would be through a Devon wide devolution deal;
· pressures do ease slightly in the winter season and it is hard to predict how the situation would be next year;
· the Head of Legal & Governance (Monitoring Officer) provided advice stating people are entitled to have second properties and if there are in a good state TDC cannot enforce to deprive the owner of the property, however TDC do have some power with properties which are run down;
The Chair thanked the Public Health & Housing Manager for attending.