To receive a verbal update from the Head of Legal & Governance (Monitoring Officer)
The Head of Legal & Governance (Monitoring Officer) added to the previous updates regarding the issue of Temporary Accommodation.
It was explained that the Council is seeing an unprecedented demand in people needing temporary accommodation. The role of the Housing Options team was explained, along with the complexities of the situation for the Council.
While it was recognised that numbers were high, it was explained the main challenge was related to people needing the temporary accommodation for longer. This was due to a lack of affordable permanent tenancies in the area, it was also explained that people were finding it hard to afford to maintain their tenancies once housed. Agencies, like the CAB and Encompass, were also reporting back that affordability was a key concern.
The additional issues resulting from an increase in holiday accommodation and the cost of living crisis were highlighted as also having an additional impact on the situation.
The Head of Legal and Governance (& Monitoring Officer) summarised the work taking place to try and alleviate the pressures and highlighted how this was linked to the budgetary situation that had already been discussed.
It was confirmed that the team were currently working on a policy, which will come to a future committee, looking at subsidising rent to save on the costs of temporary accommodation. This would be a short-term solution to address the current housing crisis. It was recognised that longer term solutions to the crisis were needed at a national Government level.
Members asked about the Pods and potential conversion of buildings, it was confirmed that this work was progressing.
The importance of gaining the support of Full Council to help alleviate the situation was stated.
It was stated that a white paper had been due this Autumn and the MP – Sir Geoffrey Cox – was aware of the issues facing Torridge. Councillor Clarke suggested he could update members at the next Committee regarding a planned meeting with Sir Geoffrey Cox.
Members queried how often LHA rates get reviewed, whether they were linked to inflation and whether Government should be lobbied. The Chief Executive stated that this had been raised, but LHA rates are not uplifted in line with inflation and were last changed around 10 years ago.
Members queried whether families in temporary accommodation must pay Council Tax. It was explained that in some cases, where temporary accommodation becomes a longer term arrangement people may become liable, as the property would be considered their main residence. It was confirmed that anyone staying in B&B or hostels would not be liable. The complexities of the assessment process and the management of all the different situations was recognised.
Following further suggestions to lobby regarding funding and budgets the Chief Executive confirmed that these issues continue to be raised with the MP but it is with the Government and required legislative change.
Members queried the valuations of the properties in the district in terms of Council Tax and reflected on the increase in house prices seen within the district in recent years. It was confirmed that the valuations used were based on 1993 house prices and this hadn’t been reviewed by Government since.
Members reflected on the complicated nature of the situation and recognised the huge personal impact for local residents, they offered their support to the team in the managing of this.