Thurrock sees rise in homelessness

Homelessness in Thurrock is up by 22 per cent and has left the already effectively bankrupt council with an almost £500,000 overspend, it has been revealed.

A report drawn up by the council’s housing department, ahead of a housing overview and scrutiny meeting next week, blames the current economic crisis for the huge rise in homelessness in the borough.

The service has a forecast overspend of £468,000 over the year.

The report by Christopher Wade, the council’s head of housing solutions, said: “The service continues to see a large increase in demand, with presentations year on year having increased, at the point of writing, by 22 per cent from the same point last year.

“Given the current cost of living crisis, which shows no signs of easing off significantly, as well as previous changes in legislation, we have also seen a comparable year on year increase in temporary accommodation placements.

“Some of this is likely due to an increase in the rough sleeper cohort, which is well maintained and managed, but mostly reflects higher rental costs with no concurrent Local Housing Allowance (LHA) increases, reduced landlord availability in the private rental sector, and inflationary pressures on household budgets.”

The report said high mortgage costs and inflation had left residents increasingly able to pay their rents and landlords struggling to keep up their mortgage payments.

According to research undertaken by Landlord Today.co.uk, and Property118.com, more than 330,000 small to medium landlords are expected to leave the rental market this year, with 51 per cent of those currently providing homes in London and the South-East .

To help landlords, the council has signed up to “Rentsurance”, a rent insurance scheme which can cover non-payment of rent up to £2,500 per month for an annual premium of between £350 and £470 per annum.

In addition the borough has to deal with “ever-increasing” encroachment by London authorities procuring temporary and private rented housing in the area.

This, the report says, could lead to Thurrock itself looking beyond its boundaries to find temporary housing for those it has a statutory duty to help.

The report adds: “Additional pressures appear to be on the horizon, and the service is undertaking risk planning around these, in relation to the Government’s position on the closure of hotels for asylum seekers.

“As a result, these closures are likely to have an impact not only on housing, but also social care, who may owe duties in the absence of those owed ordinarily by Housing.”

Currently none of the planned closures are in Thurrock but the council says it remains a risk for the future.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter