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Liverpool looks to private rented sector to help cut homelessness bill

Liverpool City Council is looking to work with the private rented sector to help reduce the amount of money spent supporting families facing homelessness.

The Council has seen temporary accommodation costs rise from £250,000 in 2019, to a projected £25m by the end of this financial year.

That’s the budget equivalent of everything the Council spends on Culture, Tourism, Parks and Youth Services, or what would be raised in income if Council Tax was increased by 12.5 per cent.

Almost 1,000 families are currently in temporary accommodation – 558 of which are in B&Bs or hotels. The city has seen a spike in homelessness numbers due to a rise in Section 21 eviction notices, fulled by rent rises caused by an increase in mortgage interest rates.

Liverpool’s situation has also been compounded by the number of people who are being granted the right to remain in the city. A total of 390 individuals in this situation have presented themselves as homeless to the Council in the past three months, due to changes in the Home Office’s asylum assessment process.

The Council Leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, and Cabinet member for Housing Cllr Sarah Doyle wrote to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, MP, last year outlining the scale of the issue and the need for government support.

While talks continue the Council has now devised a plan to curb costs in the coming years.

A report to the Council’s Cabinet is to be considered next Wednesday, 1 February which recommends the authority begins a procurement exercise for the provision of 400 private sector properties for a period of up to five years.

If approved, the proposed contract would start on 1 June 2024, with an estimated cost of £19m until 2029 – a net saving of £121m if current trends continue.

A key aim of the plan is to enable families to move out of B&Bs and hotels into more suitable and sustainable accommodation. There are currently 62 families who have been housed in B&Bs/hotels for more than six months.

The Cabinet report will be discussed just a week after more than 150 councils raised the issue at Westminster.

The Council has recently opened a temporary winter hub to start the assessment process for people newly found rough sleeping in the city, and has also begun the process of drafting a new Housing and a new Homelessness Strategy.

Councillor Sarah Doyle, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

“The homelessness situation in Liverpool is at crisis point. Due to unprecedented external factors, the cost of housing people in temporary accommodation has become unsustainable.

“A 10,000% rise in five years is a frightening number and is creating phenomenal pressure on our overall Council budget.

“This is a nationwide problem, as we saw at Westminster this week, and we need Government to take action on a number of levels, not least on revoking Section 21 notices and increasing local housing allowance rates and regulating rents.

“This temporary accommodation plan coming to Cabinet is a good step forward in mitigating the rise in the costs we are having to endure. It will crucially also provide people and families with a more homely and sustainable setting. I fear what impact the current situation is having on the mental health of those affected, not least the children.

“However, we must be clear that this is a means to manage the current crisis. We urge government to invest in the provision of social rented homes. We want to see more families living in secure and affordable permanent accommodation.

“Hopefully by June we will be in a position to begin this contract and start to provide accommodation in our communities which will enable people to live a more normal life whilst their long-term situations are being resolved.”