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Luton Borough Council

Reducing homelessness

 

We actively prevent homelessness and provide pathways into appropriate housing and support for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

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The effect of homelessness can extend beyond the devastating loss of accommodation and impact individuals for years. We recognise it is often related to complex issues that hinder financial, education, social wellbeing and create health inequality.

Through early intervention and prevention and proactive solutions we expect to halve the levels of homelessness and rough sleeping in Luton.

Already we have ceased the use of bed and breakfast accommodation, moving homeless households into more appropriate accommodation.

Homelessness remains a major problem in the town however, and Luton has over twice the number of people living on the streets than in any other town in the East of England according to homeless charity Shelter.

The Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2016 to 2021 (HPS) (updated 2018) is the first shared homelessness strategy for Luton Council and Luton CCG.

The need to respond to homelessness in a multi-agency coordinated way is now much greater. We intend to support our residents as early as possible to ensure they are enabled to help themselves in finding appropriate solutions to prevent homelessness.

Regular dialogue between statutory and third sector partners has developed from the HPS which has facilitated additional projects and funding bids to tackle homelessness issues in the town.

  • The numbers of homeless applications in Luton has increased by 65 per cent between 2014 and 2017. Applications fell in 2013 to 2014 and have gone back up again.
  • The numbers accepted as being in priority need in Luton have reduced by 10 per cent between 2014 and 2017, falling from 439 to 391 households in that time.
  • The main reason for homelessness in 2017 to 2018 is the end of an assured shorthold tenancy, which accounted for 98 cases in 2017 to 2018. The increasing gap between Local Housing Allowance and actual rents is exacerbating this problem.
  • Luton has been successful in the number of cases of homeless prevention, with an increase from 119 cases 27
  • In 2014 to 2015 to 876 cases in 2016 to 2017 and 801 in 2017 to 2018 with the majority of the interventions keeping people in their home.
  • Two thirds of homeless cases are female with dependent children being the most frequent reason for priority need.
  • The black ethnic group are over represented in homeless applications. This trend is the same in all comparator regions.

The key change has been the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act. The act introduces stronger prevention and relief duty for eligible households regardless of priority need status.

The extension of the definition of threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days gives local authorities a more realistic period to carry out prevention work.

The number of households in nightly lets has been reduced from 336 to 265 between January and June 2018, a reduction of 20 per cent.

Number of frontline homeless preventions has risen from 61 to 560 cases over three years, the time taken to make a decision on homeless applications has reduced so that the number of people waiting over 33 days for a decision has fallen from 200 to 12 over the last two years.

A successful bid for a Rough Sleepers Initiative was recently awarded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This funding of £310,940 will assist in reducing the number of rough sleepers from 87 to 44 in the forthcoming year.

A successful bid for the development of a Housing First project in Luton was awarded £210,00 from improved Better Care Fund (iBCF). This project will support 20 homeless individuals with complex needs in accommodation through allocated council stock.

Homelessness and vulnerable housing has an impact on health so our work to reduce homelessness supports our strategic ambitions on Public Health and children and families.

In particular our Health Inequalities Action Plan sets targets to address homelessness and poor housing, we worked with Luton Clinical Commissioning Group to set out a five year strategy which aims to reduce levels of homelessness and the human cost of homelessness across the borough. A multi-agency group supports the ongoing implementation of this strategy.

Because homelessness impacts disproportionately on women and black people in Luton, activities to tackle homelessness also supports our wider work on community cohesion, equalities and community engagement.

Engagement activities with primary care and community organisations demonstrated that reducing homelessness was a high priority for Luton.

Homelessness reduction

  • We'll support our implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act with the introduction of new software and focus on homelessness prevention.
  • We'll reduce rough sleeping by 50 per cent over two years and work with key partners to tackle entrenched rough sleeping and prevent more people from becoming rough sleepers.
  • We'll maintain and develop effective reconnection services back to home countries and cities for those without a local connection.
  • We'll review supported housing services to prevent repeat homelessness and rough sleeping amongst people with mental and complex health needs.
  • We'll ensure that local public and voluntary sector services prioritise homelessness prevention when designing and commissioning services for vulnerable individuals and families.
  • We'll reduce homelessness costs by a minimum of £2 million between 2018 and 2020.

Improving temporary accommodation outcomes.

  • We'll expand our Temporary Accommodation Purchasing Scheme to provide an additional 20 homes by 2020 to grow our portfolio to 80 homes.
  • We'll improve the quality of temporary accommodation by working closely with our private sector property owners and leasehold providers.
  • We'll support the introduction of supported temporary accommodation offering higher support for those with complex needs.
  • We'll eliminate our long term use of nightly lets to zero by 2020.
  • We'll reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation by 100 per year.
  • We'll ensure that residents of temporary accommodation are benefitting from the skills, and training support available via the Luton Investment Framework and career pathfinder team.
  • We'll meet our income collection target of 93 per cent for temporary accommodation.
  • We'll continue to lobby for increased LHA rates to reflect Luton housing market and limit the council’s exposure to temporary accommodation costs.
  • We'll reduce time in temporary accommodation by improving our processing time for homelessness applications and supporting people to move out into independent accommodation.

Partnership

  • We'll continue to build on partnership working with charities, third sector, statutory and faith organisations to address homelessness challenges and attract investment for through a variety of projects and initiatives, taking up all opportunities to support sustainable prevention of homelessness and routes out of homelessness.
  • We'll work with women’s organisations to improve emergency housing and move on options for victims of violence and exploitation.
  • We'll work with partners on a Homelessness Complex Needs Panel to work with households that have complex needs and seek funding opportunities for Housing First and other projects.
  • We'll develop jointly with third sector organisations a 'Move On' strategy which will offer long term support.
  • We'll bid to be part of the Making Every Adult Matter network coordinated through Homeless Link.

There are many drivers of homelessness in Luton but affordability and accessibility of the private rented sector in particular is a challenge.

Our ability to prevent homelessness, and respond to it is hampered by:

  • rising rents
  • short term tenancies
  • low local incomes

Hence, a major risk for our ambitions to reduce homelessness is any economic shock which impacts on incomes without reducing housing costs, and the separate issue of rising housing costs.

In addition the growing gap between actual rents and Local Housing Allowance places households on low incomes and many working households at greater risk of homelessness.

Our LIF is the key mechanism to mitigate against low income and precarious employment in the town and support more high skilled stable jobs.

Many of our projects to reduce homelessness and support homeless people are funded through government and external funding. When these funding streams come to an end, the sustainability of services particularly to rough sleepers is at risk.

Success in delivery of more affordable housing in Luton will also help to reduce time in temporary accommodation and create more opportunities for stable housing options.

 

Download the Housing strategy 2019-22 (pdf/a)
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