Charities called it the biggest change to homelessness legislation in 40 years, but since the new homelessness act came into force last April what impact has it had on our local council?
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was introduced to prevent and relieve homelessness through two key duties.
The first duty, that of ‘prevention’, saw the extension of the period in which a household is defined as ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 to 56 days.
The change means that councils have to work with applicants for a longer period of time – eight weeks – to make sure they retain their accommodation.
If this process fails and after 56 days the applicant has become homeless, under the new ‘relief ’ duty councils are required to work with them for a further eight weeks to secure suitable accommodation.
The aim of the act is to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, reducing the number of people actually sleeping rough.
But how much does it cost to implement?
Figures obtained by The Scarborough News through a Freedom of Information request show that the number of homeless households in the Scarborough borough has progressively gone down since 2016.
Yet more money than ever before is being spent to house homeless people in hotels and B&Bs.
In 2017, this cost the borough £46,000 while in 2018 the figure soared to £105,000.
Cllr Bill Chatt, Portfolio holder for Housing, explained: “When someone comes to us and says ‘I’m homeless’ then we have to house them in emergency accommodation and we have to work for them for 56 days.
“These 56 days is such a sticking point. Before, you could maybe house people within a week or two weeks. You’re now left with these 56 days to look at all options, look at this and look at that and that’s keeping people in emergency accommodation for a longer period of time.
“If you look at the figures, years ago we were working with more [homeless] people and it was costing us less.
“Keeping people in emergency accommodation is not the right thing to do but we don’t own any accommodation ourselves and we have a duty to keep people in accommodation that’s fit and proper.”
In the past few years the number of hotels and B&Bs which the council relies on has also increased from five to eight. “We use hotels, boarding houses, sometimes flats.
"We do whatever we can to put people up where there is availability and where we can afford it. Hotels are willing to support us and we make sure that people stay there for the shortest time as possible.”