New temporary accommodation for homeless residents in Mid Sussex could be bought using £4m of council reserves.
A report put before a meeting of Mid Sussex District Council’s Cabinet on Monday (July 9) laid out plans to buy 20 properties within the district, and lease a further ten.
If all goes as planned, the majority of the homes would be one or two-bedroom properties in Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath.
A business plan showed that buying 20 properties would save the council £300,000 per year, while a further £75,000 per year would be saved leasing properties within the district.
The council currently spends around £346,000 per year on providing temporary accommodation, compared to £254,000 in 2016/17.
The option of buying a large property, such as a hotel or care home, was not recommended, as there were no suitable properties available in Mid Sussex and the project would be ‘financially uncertain’ in the long run.
Judy Holmes, assistant chief executive, said: “The idea behind this is to find a more sustainable way of supporting people we have a duty towards because they are homeless.
“There are clear financial benefits to this service and clear benefits to the families.”
Andrew MacNaughton (Con, Ardingly and Balcombe), cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “It’s only now we’re on a financially sound footing that Cabinet was able to put funds aside for something like this to happen.
“We don’t expect to spend this all at once – we have to find the right properties – but I’m very, very pleased this is moving forward.
“It’s so important to the families to stay close to where they want to be. Some temporary accommodation is well outside the district.”
There has been a drop in the number of families accepted as homeless by the council, but a rise in the number living in temporary accommodation.
A report to the Cabinet stated that 37 Mid Sussex families were homeless in 2017/18, compared to 44 the previous year.
At the end of March, there were 51 in temporary accommodation, compared to 46 at the same time in 2017. In addition, 931 families were given housing advice, compared to 890 the previous year.
The meeting was told that the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, in April, meant additional responsibilities for councils, including ‘relief duty’.
This duty requires local authorities to take reasonable steps to help an eligible homeless person to secure accommodation for at least six months. This in turn is likely to put more pressure on the accommodation available.
Members noted that homelessness and financial troubles could hit anyone.
Norman Webster (Con, East Grinstead – Baldwins), cabinet member for community, said: “It’s not always the lowest paid in our community who suffer from homelessness – anyone can suffers misfortune.
“I think it’s very important that we acknowledge that.”