Three Rivers District Temporary Accommodation

28th February 2018

The Council has very limited temporary accommodation and historically has been reliant on temporary accommodation managed by other social housing providers (such as housing associations). This is a limited resource and as the demand for temporary accommodation has increased, the Council has needed to source alternative temporary accommodation at short notice. This has included using private companies, who typically let temporary accommodation units on a nightly let basis. This is often significantly more expensive than temporary accommodation provided by social housing providers, and often means that the rates are above Local Housing Allowance resulting in higher cost to the Council. 

The demand for temporary accommodation can be attributed to a number of factors.

  1. A reduction in social housing re-lets and few new affordable housing developments in the District. This has in part been due to changes in Government planning policy, which has enabled developers to not provide social housing as part of developments. This has meant more homeless households have been spending longer periods of time in temporary accommodation before securing permanent homes, in turn increasing the usage and cost of temporary accommodation to the Council. 
  2. This has been further exacerbated by a very expensive private rented sector, with market rents significantly higher than Local Housing Allowance rates. The result of this has meant many benefit dependant or low income households have been unable to independently access the private rented sector, instead approaching the Council for housing advice and assistance. In many cases this has meant the provision of temporary accommodation where this would not have been needed in an area where market rent is inline or closer to Local Housing Allowance.
  3. Housing Benefit entitlement is calculated using Local Housing Allowance Rates (LHA) for the size of the property a family needs. The LHA rates have been frozen for the last four years, but 2018 will see a small increase. The LHA rates are based on the 30th percentile of rents in the area, and are set by the Valuations Office Agency (VOA). The LHA rates are lower than market rents in the area and this can mean there is a shortfall between the LHA rate and the actual rent being charged and the tenant has to find this shortfall.
  4. A continuing high number of homes sold under the Right to Buy, where the proceeds of the sale is nowhere near enough to enable new homes to be built. 

The Council has recently been granted planning permission to build 29 temporary accommodation units across three sites in the District, and is seeking permission for a fourth site. This will significantly decrease the temporary accommodation costs to the Council, whilst allowing those seeking accommodation to be housed closer to home. 

Leader of Three Rivers District Council, Cllr Sara Bedford, said “Councils have been hit with a double whammy from the Government of families facing unwarranted cuts to benefits, together with policies which make it much more difficult to build affordable homes for rent. Families homeless through no fault of their own are being penalised by the Government’s failure to support ordinary people seeking a secure home.”