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Councils 'up against impossible odds' in delivery of housing services

A report to Eastbourne Borough Council's Cabinet committee (Dec 13) detailed how the council is dealing with a series of national issues that are putting 'extraordinary pressure' on housing services.

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The loss of accommodation in the private rented sector, inflation, the cost of living crisis and unaffordable house prices are all contributing to unprecedented challenges faced by local authorities up and down the UK.  

Councillor Peter Diplock, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

"Our housing team works hard to maintain tenancies, to use discretionary housing payments to keep families in their homes, to incentivise landlords to remain in the market and to prevent homelessness before it happens.

"We have built social housing in each of the past five years, delivering high-quality homes on brownfield sites for families on our waiting lists. But our range of options is now almost exhausted."

In October, Eastbourne Borough Council hosted an emergency homelessness summit that addressed the spiralling costs associated with placements in temporary accommodation.  Following the summit, a cross-party group of 119 council leaders signed a letter to the chancellor making six urgent requests:

  • Raise Local Housing Allowance rates to a level that will cover at least 30% of local market rent and commit to annual uprating
  • Provide £100m additional funding for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2023-24 and an additional £200m in 2024-25
  • Provide a £150m top-up to the Homelessness Prevention Grant for 2024-25 
  • Review the cap for housing benefit subsidy rate for local authority homelessness placements 
  • Develop policy to stimulate retention and supply in the privately rented sector
  • Give councils the long-term funding, flexibility and certainty needed to increase the supply of social housing

A very limited adjustment in the Local Housing Allowance was the only measure announced in the Autumn Statement.

Councillor Peter Diplock, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

"We're up against impossible odds on a number of fronts, not just in our work to tackle homelessness.

"Soaring prices are impacting all facets of our housing service. Everything from repairs and maintenance to the delivery of affordable new homes is under extraordinary pressure.

"The council's net annual budget is just £14 million and temporary accommodation costs alone are estimated at £4.9 million for this financial year. 

"You don't have to be an accountant to realise these figures are unsustainable and why the government must provide extra funding to protect the public services and the viability of local authorities."

Published on December 19, 2023.

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