The purchase of 40 homes for families and the appointment of an officer dedicated to bringing empty homes back into use are just two of the measures Canterbury City Council is taking to tackle homelessness and improve housing in the district.
The local authority has spent just over £10million on buying the homes since 2015 with a focus on former council properties which generally represent good value for money and provided homes where people need them.
The money has come from a combination of sources including proceeds from right-to-buy and contributions from developers under s106 agreements as a result of planning permission.
Meanwhile, Empty Homes Officer Andrew Baker joined the council last month and is trying to establish an accurate picture of the number of empty homes in the district and then intervene in the more difficult ones to bring them back into use by using a range of powers. It is estimated around 110 properties fall into that category.
Between 1,000 and 1,200 homeless people approach the council every year. At the end of September there were 2,710 people on the Housing Needs Register and the average waiting time for a three-bedroomed council house was just over two years.
Other measures the council is taking as part of its Corporate Plan include:
- Adapting the privately owned homes of disabled people so they do not have to move
- The creation of a social lettings agency to act as a broker between the private sector and prospective tenants and help local people secure good quality and affordable housing in the private sector
- A thorough review of the council’s use of temporary accommodation for homeless people
- The creation of a single person’s homelessness officer to work with people who are sofa surfing or living with friends to try and stop them becoming rough sleepers
- The creation of a community support team to work with people at risk of being made homeless at an early stage
- Carrying on working with, and providing financial support for, homeless support charities Catching Lives and Porchlight to help rough sleepers find the right sort of support and find somewhere to live
Over the next 12 months there are also plans to:
- Build housing for those who struggle to afford market prices and encourage others to do so
- Remodel and improve some existing housing to make it more attractive and suitable for the future
Deputy Chairman of the council’s Community Committee, Cllr Joe Howes said: “Tackling homelessness, providing affordable rented housing and improving housing in the district has been a key council priority since the local elections in 2015.
“There is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes to exploit every available avenue to bring housing on stream and alleviate the plight of those in need of our help by giving as much support as we can.
“This is a challenging area involves us helping a wide range of people with lots of different needs while demand is increasing. It means we are sometimes called upon to prioritise cases and make very difficult decisions.”