Rother councillors have welcomed improved homelessness prevention and relief results

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Rother councillors have welcomed improved homelessness prevention and relief results in the past year.

Discussing a report on Monday (June 3), Rother District Council’s overview and scrutiny heard how the authority’s successful homelessness prevention and reliefs had gone from 133 in 2022/23 to 205 in 2023/24 — an increase of 54 per cent in resolved cases.

Officers attributed the increase to investment in two new staff, who were said to have supported wider efforts to prevent homelessness in the district. Their work includes the introduction of a broader range of options to incentivise landlords to receive households who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness as tenants, the report said.

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“You can’t calculate it, but the money that is saved if you are able to [prevent homelessness] is phenomenal,” said Cllr Charles Clark (Ind).

Rother District Council. Pic: ContributedRother District Council. Pic: Contributed
Rother District Council. Pic: Contributed

“Private housing costs continue to rise and our [temporary accommodation] placements are costing more as well. It can vary. I dealt with a case recently, where somebody [was living] in temporary accommodation out of the district at £2,000 per month has now got a house in Ticehurst … for £535. It is massive.

“You can’t equate a figure, but it must be quite a lot of money for each family we prevent from being homeless.”

The figures were welcomed by other committee members, including Cllr Simon McGurk (Lab) who said: “It is the human impact as well. Preventing homelessness and getting upstream of those issues is just so important.

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“Fifty-four per cent is something to really shout about and celebrate and to have those two homelessness prevention officers in place is something I think we really should be so proud of and the fact they are having such an impact.”

The committee also heard how the average cost of temporary accommodation in Rother has fallen over the past 12 months.

According to the report, the average cost of placing a household in temporary accommodation fell from £1,235 in 2022/23 to £1,090 in 2023/24.

Officers attribute the drop in costs to the increase in council-owned properties being used as temporary accommodation. Using an example of two-bed homes, officers said there is a net cost per unit of £6,813 per year for council-owned properties compared to average of £16,860 per year for accommodating the same size household through private providers.

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However, the report also set out how the number of households staying in temporary accommodation had increased. According to the report, there were 169 Rother households in temporary accommodation as of 31 March 2024, compared to 150 at the same point in 2023.

The average time households spent in temporary accommodation had also increased.

In 2023/24, Rother’s average homeless household would spend 22 weeks in temporary accommodation before a placement was secured. This compares to an average of 18 weeks the previous year, the report said.

Officers said the reason for the increase was an “unusually high” number of larger sized households needing homelessness relief during quarter four of 2023/24. These households were in temporary accommodation for an extended period of time due to the difficulty in securing three- or four-bedroom sized properties.

Officers said the waiting times have now fallen to more typical levels and the average as of April 2024 was 21 weeks.