HIGHLAND Councillors have agreed a “radical” new way of providing temporary accommodation for people who find themselves unintentionally homeless.
The Council has a statutory duty in relation to homeless households.
Temporary accommodation is currently provided in a number of ways including through purchasing tendered rooms in Houses of Multiple Occupation. The annual cost of the Council’s current use of tendered rooms is £2.6million.
It is proposed to examine transferring this spending and investing it in building new self-contained one-bedroomed flats in small developments across the Highlands and in Inverness, away from the city centre.
The Finance Housing and Resources Committee has agreed a project team will carry out consultation to develop a business case.
Committee Chairman Councillor Dave Fallows said: “I am very pleased that we are progressing this radical new approach to accommodating people who find themselves temporarily homeless. It is a much better way of spending public funds with the advantage of providing purpose built accommodation which can at a later time be brought into our mainstream stock of Council homes.”
Council leader Drew Hendry wholeheartedly supported the report, which had resulted from inter-agency talks over the future regeneration of Inverness city centre.
Housing director Steve Barron said: “Recognition that the Council’s use of tendered rooms in Houses of Multiple Occupation is less attractive both for the tenants and for the Council leads to this proposal for an alternative response to the issue. This new approach would see the Council take its current expenditure on tendered rooms and invest this in building new self-contained one-bedroom flats in small developments across the Highlands.
“These units would be built to the same standard as the general Council house new build programme. This would involve a kitchen/living room with separate bathroom and bedroom. They would be located among mainstream Council housing developments and indeed they would be suitable for use as mainstream Council housing should demand patterns change in future.
“An outline business case has been developed which indicates that the current level of expenditure on each tendered room would be sufficient to service the debt on borrowing to build a new unit. Including these new builds within the Council house building programme, and attracting subsidy would allow the greatest number of units to be provided. The business case has been developed on the basis that there would be no implication for mainstream Council house rents arising from the use of subsidy or new build costs.
“The outline business case indicates that the Council could (within current levels of expenditure) afford to develop new build provision to replace most of its current take up of private sector tendered rooms.
“It is fundamental to the model that it will also lead to a very significant improvement in the quality of the Council’s homelessness provision. This improvement would be evident in terms of the quality of accommodation.
“The success of this approach will also depend on developing appropriate housing and community support services for vulnerable clients aimed at achieving more positive outcomes in terms of independence, employment prospects and healthy lifestyles.”
“An enhanced Council build programme would provide an additional boost to the construction sector in difficult times.”