West Suffolk pays high price for poor housing solution

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West Suffolk councils paid out a minimum of £47,544 over three months to provide temporary accommodation for those facing homelessness.

Last week 10 households were reliant on bed and breakfast accommodation while 2,919 are sat on social housing waiting lists.

The majority of those placed in emergency accommodation were in St Edmundsbury with the borough paying at least £39,661 between December 1 2013 and February 28 2014.

Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “Since the economic downturn we have been spending a lot of money on temporary accommodation and I’m not happy about it.

“I find it extremely uncomfortable putting a family into a bed and breakfast that might be miles away from their support systems, their friends and family but the alternative is them going on the streets and I can’t do that.”

Councils have a statutory responsibility to provide emergency accommodation and a proportion of the costs can be reclaimed from central government.

Published accounts listing payments in excess of £250 showed that Forest Heath District Council paid a minimum of £7,883 during the three month period.

Rona Burt, he council’s portfolio holder for planning, housing and transport said: “What I would like to see would be more accommodation available to put people in over the short term so we do not have to use bed and breakfasts.”

Cllr Burt said that costs escalate quickly when people were placed in bed and breakfast accommodation and that it was not ideal for those in need, particularly if room could not be found in the district.

Both St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council are considering alternative options to using bed and breakfast services.

A business case exploring the possibility of sourcing properties to be used to provide temporary accommodation is likely to be considered this summer.

Both Cllr Burt and Cllr Gower said this scheme would be favourable to the current situation.

However both also said it was not just emergency accommodation was required across the districts but housing of all types.

Cllr Gower said: “I do not think any of the housing stock is sufficient. In my locality you put a house on the market and it’s sold.

“It’s not just the affordable side.”