Pressure grows to improve Portsmouth’s temporary accommodation after cuts to ‘lifeline’ government grant

FEARS over cuts to a 'lifeline' grant that can prevent homelessness have spurred on extra measures to improve temporary accommodation in the city.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 3:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 4:50 pm
Councillors in Portsmouth are worried about cuts to a budget that helps make sure people can keep their home Picture: Shutterstock

Councillors revealed government cash for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) was 'no longer enough' with most of it spent by February this year due to rising demand.

Funding for the payments has reduced in recent years with £617,464 for the 2019/20 financial year compared to £675,063 the previous year.

And of the £675,063 allocated until April 2019, £654,021 was already used by the end of February.

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Speaking at a housing scrutiny panel Councillor Luke Stubbs said: 'I do think it is worrying that we have spent almost all of the money with a month to go.'

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Darren Sanders, agreed. 'The increase in demand coupled with the cuts from government is a big problem,' he said.

DHP can be awarded in cases where housing is too expensive for some residents to cover costs such as deposits, moving to more affordable property and rent shortfalls - where rent is higher than the Local Housing Allowance rate.

It is only given to people in receipt of either Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. The council's housing benefit offers decide how money is spent for eligible residents.

Need for the DHP funding in Portsmouth dramatically increased alongside demand for temporary accommodation, which saw a sharp rise in use - 119 households in February this year, up from 58 in April 2017.

Several measures are being considered to improve temporary accommodation in the city after it was also revealed that the council had to rely too heavily on emergency accommodation in the city such as hotels and B&Bs.

These include creating more temporary accommodation,including on the site of the former Southsea Community Centre in King Street, and reducing housing wait times.

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Paul Fielding, the council's assistant housing director, commented: 'At the moment there are usually about 55 days between people leaving council properties and new people moving in. That means for almost two months we are picking up the cost for council tax and losing rent money.

'We need to bring that time down so we can get people in more quickly. At the moment there is no prescribed notice period people have to give us.'

Changes will be influenced in part by the results of a consultation on the draft homelessness strategy that closes on April 30.

Cllr Sanders added: 'It is important to find out what the real reasons for people needing accommodation. What shocked me were the two main reasons for people not having homes - private tenancies coming to an end or people being told to leave their family's or friend's home.

'We want to know how we can prevent this which is why we are listening to people as part of the consultation.'

To take part in the draft homelessness strategy email [email protected]