A new approach in Highland to tackling homelessness

Highland Councillors have agreed in principle to a “radical” new way of providing temporary accommodation for people who find themselves unintentionally homeless.

The Council has a statutory duty in relation to homeless households and one of its key duties is to provide temporary accommodation until settled accommodation can be offered.

Temporary accommodation is currently provided in a number of ways including through purchasing tendered rooms in Houses of Multiple Occupation (284). The annual cost of the Council’s current use of  tendered rooms is £2.6million.

It is proposed to examine transferring this spending and investing it in building new self-contained one-bedroomed flats in small developments across the Highlands and in Inverness, away from the city centre.

The Finance Housing and Resources Committee agreed today (Wednesday) that a Council Project Team  will consult with partners to develop a business case and bring forward detailed proposals to the next meeting of the Finance Housing and Resources Committee in April.

Committee Chairman Councillor Dave Fallows, welcomed the development. He said: “I am very pleased that we are progressing this radical new approach to accommodating people who find themselves temporarily homeless. It is a much better way of spending public funds with the advantage of providing purpose built accommodation which can at a later time be brought into our mainstream stock of Council homes.”

Leader Councillor Drew Hendry commissioned the report on the new approach after he took part in inter-agency talks over the future regeneration of Inverness city centre.  He said: "I am very pleased with the support this new Administration-led approach has attracted in the Council Chamber. This highlights the Council’s commitment to improving housing, increasing the number of Council house units and finding new solutions."

Steve Barron, Depute Chief Executive and Director of Housing and Property, said in a report to committee that the Council has set up a homelessness prevention team and adopted a preventative approach to homelessness which has seen the number of households requiring temporary accommodation reducing. The reductions achieved in the accommodation required have resulted in a reduction in the use of tendered rooms. This trend is expected to continue as the Council’s focus on the prevention of homelessness is further developed.

He said: “Recognition that the Council’s use of tendered rooms in Houses of Multiple Occupation is less attractive both for the tenants and for the Council leads to this proposal for an alternative response to the issue. This new approach would see the Council take its current expenditure on tendered rooms and invest this in building new self-contained one-bedroom flats in small
developments across the Highlands.

“These units would be built to the same standard as the general Council house
new build programme. This would involve a kitchen/living room with separate
bathroom and bedroom. They would be located among mainstream Council
housing developments and indeed they would be suitable for use as
mainstream Council housing should demand patterns change in future.

“An outline business case has been developed which indicates that the current
level of expenditure on each tendered room would be sufficient to service the
debt on borrowing to build a new unit. Including these new builds within the
Council house building programme, and attracting subsidy would allow the
greatest number of units to be provided. The business case has been
developed on the basis that there would be no implication for mainstream
Council house rents arising from the use of subsidy or new build costs.

“The outline business case indicates that the Council could (within current
levels of expenditure) afford to develop new build provision to replace most of
its current take up of private sector tendered rooms.
“Iit is fundamental to the model that it will also lead to a very significant improvement in the quality of the Council’s homelessness provision. This improvement would be evident in terms of the quality of accommodation.

“The success of this approach will also depend on developing appropriate housing and community support services for vulnerable clients aimed at
achieving more positive outcomes in terms of independence, employment
prospects and healthy lifestyles.”

“An enhanced Council build programme would provide an additional boost to
the construction sector in difficult times.”


30 Jan 2013