'A perfect storm' - Crawley Borough Council has declared a housing emergency

Crawley Borough Council has declared a housing emergency.
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Crawley Borough Council has declared a housing emergency.

The move came following a 12-fold increase in the amount the council pays to provide temporary accommodation for those in need.

During a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (February 21), members unanimously supported a notice of motion which laid out the problems being faced and the impact they are having on the council’s finances.

Crawley Town Hall. Image: GoogleMapsCrawley Town Hall. Image: GoogleMaps
Crawley Town Hall. Image: GoogleMaps
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In 2018/19, providing temporary accommodation cost the authority £456,000.

In 2023/24, the cost stood at £5.7million and accounted for one pound in every three of the council’s budget.

Now leader Michael Jones will write to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, asking him to help councils and housing authorities such as Crawley and to ‘unfreeze’ the Local Housing Allowance.

Mr Jones said: “In recent years, Crawley has experienced a perfect storm in relation to temporary accommodation.

Crawley council leader Michael Jones | Picture: submittedCrawley council leader Michael Jones | Picture: submitted
Crawley council leader Michael Jones | Picture: submitted
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“We’ve seen huge increases in homelessness demand on the back of the national housing crisis, the lack of housing supply and the cost of both ownership and rental.”

Mr Jones quoted a study from housing and homelessness charity Shelter, which said that homelessness levels in Crawley were the third highest in the south-east.

He added: “A roof over people’s heads is a basic human need and it is a tragedy [homelessness] is happening on this scale.”

As of February 6, 2,796 applications had been made for the 243 homes made available in the last eight months – more than 11 applicants per property.

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And 485 households – 1,224 people – were living in temporary accommodation.

Speaking about the added pressure of finding homes for asylum seekers, Mr Jones said: “Crawley has become an asylum dispersal city by the back door.

“Currently three out of four of our asylum contingency hotels are due to remain open, meaning the dispersal will be recurring.

“Two of these hotels will be used more intensively moving forwards.”

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Mr Jones warned that if the £2m per year increase in temporary accommodation costs continued, in 18 months’ time they would make up more than half of the revenue budget.

He added: “This is simply not sustainable. The system is broken.”

AN amendment to the motion was tabled by Conservative leader Duncan Crow, adding population data from the Office of National Statistics, but it was voted down.