St Edmundsbury Borough Council is in the process of buying a five-bedroom house in Bury St Edmunds which it hopes will help reduce its emergency housing costs bill.
The property, in Lake Avenue, on Bury’s Howard Estate, has previously been used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) and is expected to assist the council with meeting its statutory duty to provide accommodation for homeless households in priority need.
‘Priority’ includes families with children, pregnancy or people with health/disability issues who have not made themselves homeless and who have a connection to the area having lived or worked here.
In 2013-14, the council spent £208,000 on putting homeless households into bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation.
It says of 10 households currently staying in B&Bs, six are single people who could be accommodated in HMOs like the one in Lake Avenue.
A council spokesman said the decision to buy made ‘commercial sense’ as it was estimated the B&B savings alone would be more than £46,000 a year and that, even after repair costs, its investment would effectively ‘be paid back in a little over four years’.
Cllr Anne Gower, cabinet member for housing, said: “I am pleased that we have taken positive action in the purchase of this property which will save taxpayers’ money and also provide a safe home for those who do find themselves unintentionally homeless.”
In August, the use of B&B accommodation peaked when St Edmundsbury, and its West Suffolk partner Forest Heath District Council, paid to place 28 households in B&Bs.
Since then, the two councils have been developing initiatives aimed at preventing homelessness and providing temporary accommodation that is more suitable and cost effective.
As part of those initiatives, West Suffolk recently entered into a pilot scheme with Havebury Housing Partnership, which will see five properties being made available for homeless households.
A council spokesman said: “The pilot with Havebury involves those placed by the council entering a rental agreement with Havebury. The only cost to the council is covering any unexpected costs – such as damage by residents to the property or rent arrears.”