Welwyn Hatfield Council aims to reduce £98K bed and breakfast bill

PUBLISHED: 06:55 21 January 2019

Howlands House, Howlands, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

Howlands House, Howlands, Welwyn Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

Faced with a £98,000 bill for B&Bs, Welwyn Hatfield Council is trying to reduce how much it spends on temporary housing for the homeless.

Hazelgrove House, Bishops Rise, Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOOHazelgrove House, Bishops Rise, Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOO

The local authority is making plans to reduce the amount of money spent on housing homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation.

The plan to reduce its £98,000 annual B&B bill is outlined in a report to the Cabinet Housing Panel, which met on January 16.

The report says that since the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in 2018, local authorities have an extended housing duty to homeless families, which has created additional pressure on the council.

There is temporary housing stock in the borough but the law change has meant that more people needed to be temporarily housed.

Minster House. Picture: Danny LooMinster House. Picture: Danny Loo

B&Bs are not a cost-effective way of upholding their duty but are, nonetheless, a necessity should all other options have been exhausted.

They are also, according to the council, “less suitable for families who are placed there”.

However, sometimes the only way a local authority can provide short-term housing whilst they further investigate a homelessness case is to use B&B facilities.

The number of homeless families last year peaked in July with 120 households being eligible for temporary housing.

The report said: “Over the last eighteen months we have experienced an increase in demand for temporary accommodation and have seen a reduction in move-on options” which has led to the rising demand.

Currently there are two main blocks of temporary housing in the borough - Howlands House and Hazelgrove House.

Howlands House, located on Howlands in WGC, has 21 shared three-bedroom units.

Eventually, Howlands house will be refurbished for longer term gains.

Hazelgrove House in Hatfield is a block which provides 20 self-contained flats for those in temporary housing need.

From those figures alone and with the increased pressure of homelessness the council knows that it needs to free up more space in which to help people temporarily.

Also, not everybody is suited to living in a communal setting, particularly those with a history of violence or sexual offences.

The council’s proposed solution to expand its temporary stock involves making use of a sheltered block for older adults, purchasing an office block which will be converted into a residential setting and developing private sector leasing options.

Minster House is a sheltered scheme for the elderly with 30 flats which is going to be empty for at least a year due to planning approval waiting times.

In the interim, the council will use it for temporary accommodation which will also generate more income from rent than for general needs housing.

In addition to using Minster House, Welwyn Hatfield Council will reportedly be making use of another sheltered housing block.

Burfield Close, currently a scheme for the elderly, has been deemed as “not suitable for meeting the needs of our older population in the future” and will be available along similar lines to Minster House.

Residents of Burfield Close have already been consulted with about being re-housed.

The report states that the contracts have also been exchanged in preparation for the council to buy Inspira House.

The office block is to be converted into 54 temporary homes for the homeless.

The report said: “The proposal is to use this block for three years, after which time we hope to have redeveloped Howlands House.”

Welwyn Hatfield Council is also always working with other agencies to provide specialist and supported accommodation.

The council has won a bid to set up a Women’s refuge in Hertfordshire alongside SaferPlaces.

It will support female survivors of domestic violence with drug and alcohol issues or who are at risk of suicide.

Furthermore, the council’s plan to expand its temporary accommodation includes the development of private sector leasing options.

The report said: “Officers are in discussion with four providers of private sector models”.

The council will lease homes directly from private landlords in order to house homeless people, temporarily.

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