It’s being warned homelessness could rise in Eastbourne.
To help tackle the growing problem, cabinet members at the Borough Council have this week approved a strategy that reflects changes to government policy and the rental market in the town, which have led to a sharp decline in affordable housing.
The strategy sets out the authority’s plans for preventing and responding to homelessness from 2016 to 2021.
Councillor Alan Shuttleworth, Cabinet member for housing, said, “Homelessness is increasing and at the same time, government policy means our housing stock is being depleted and we have radically less money to build affordable housing due to massive funding cuts.”
A homeless review found there was a significant rise in the number of Eastbourne households becoming homeless between 2014 and 2015, particularly in women with children.
Private landlords ending tenancies was the main reason for this, alongside a marked growth in the number of households becoming homeless as a result of relationship breakdowns and domestic abuse cases.
The new Housing and Planning Act 2016 could mean the council has to sell off 45 council homes a year as they become vacant to meet an estimated £6 million government levy.
Changes to benefit entitlement introduced under the government’s Welfare Reform programme and cuts to local authority funding are further impacting on homelessness levels. In addition, Supported Housing schemes are at risk of becoming blocked by a lack of affordable housing which their tenants can move on to when ready.
Cllr Shuttleworth added, “The number of homeless applications we receive continues to rise and it is expected that waiting times for council homes will increase as the impact of the Housing and Planning Act takes effect.
“It is imperative we work alongside partner agencies to identify further risks and provide a comprehensive homelessness prevention service.”
Work with rough sleepers undertaken as part of the SHORE project has been effective with an average of 11 in 2015 falling to 4 this year. However, government funding for this project is about to end.
The proposed strategy will be consulted upon before being adopted.