A plan which is set to see £130 million spent on up to 600 new council homes to help people in housing need has been agreed.
The council's Cabinet agreed on Monday (14 March 2016) to spend £10 million, as part of an overall £130 million package, to create a portfolio of almost 600 council-owned affordable private rented and temporary accommodation units over the next three years.
The package is part of reforms which include better help and guidance for private sector renters in Brent who may be threatened with eviction, so that they can find accommodation in areas they can afford at an early stage and avoid homelessness.
These measures build on the progress the council has made to reduce the number of families in shared Bed & Breakfast accommodation from 250 in April 2015 to just 20 now.
What we will do
- Establish a council-owned company which will invest millions of pounds in buying and developing a long-term portfolio of properties which can be let to homeless households at affordable (Local Housing Allowance) rates.
- Bring forward the redevelopment of Knowles House and a site on London Road to deliver improved, self contained temporary accommodation for emergency use.
- Deliver an improved approach to helping households gain or keep employment and help them settle successfully into their new homes.
- Improve the way it procures private rented sector (PRS) accommodation through external commissioning and through a pilot project with other West London boroughs.
- Roll out a new scheme that the council has been successfully piloting, called 'Find Your Home', which aims to prevent homelessness through early intervention and guidance by helping households find accommodation in areas they can afford at an early stage.
- Aim to eliminate the use of B&B and hostel accommodation with shared facilities for temporary accommodation, house people closer to Brent where possible and deliver revenue savings to the council.
These major changes have been brought forward after the council looked at the estimated homelessness demand and the supply of housing available over the next 3 years and concluded that, without reform, the council's ability to help those in need would be significantly reduced and homelessness in the borough would increase.
This is because the council currently relies on the private rented sector to discharge its homelessness duty and the rents that are being demanded by landlords are much higher than Local Housing Allowance caps could pay for.
This means that private rented sector accommodation in Brent and elsewhere in London is increasingly difficult to obtain at rates covered by housing benefit, and this situation is only likely to worsen.
Councillor Margaret McLennan, Lead member for Housing and Development at Brent Council said:
"There are a few big problems that this important reform addresses. Firstly, the money that we get from the Government to fund council services is being halved. Secondly, the private rented sector is massively overheated and it is extremely difficult to secure accommodation and thirdly, the Local Housing Allowance cap is just not enough to cover private sector rents in and around Brent.
"In light of these facts, we have developed a better approach to help people with housing issues so that we can maintain our commitment to giving people the help and opportunity to better their lives.
"A pilot of our pioneering 'Find Your Home' scheme has already successfully enabled 42 households to secure private rented accommodation and avoid being booked into Temporary Accommodation. This is better for both them and the council going forward.
"In addition, we are to invest a very substantial amount of money and resource into acquiring and developing our own stock of LHA rent and temporary accommodation, so that we can provide more, better affordable housing for those in a crisis situation."
For further details on the Temporary Accommodation Reform Plan, read the cabinet report.