High rents and lack of affordable housing causing 52 per cent more people to be sheltered by St Albans district council

Alexandra Guest House in Hemel Hempstead, where St Albans district council has been housing people t

Alexandra Guest House in Hemel Hempstead, where St Albans district council has been housing people temporarily. Picture: Google. - Credit: Archant

High rents and a lack of affordable housing in St Albans district means the council is housing more people in temporary accommodation.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the council has put up 52 per cent more people and spent 473 per cent more on doing so in the last five years.

In 2012/13, the number of people was 136 and the cost to the council was £10,419.33; in 2017/18, it was 207 and £59,744.92.

The council’s head of housing Karen Dragovic said: “There has been a significant rise in the number of homeless households we have placed in temporary accommodation while waiting for permanent housing to become available.

“This increase is due to a number of factors outside our control. These include the high cost of private rented accommodation in the district, the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act and the shortage of affordable housing in the area.”

None of the 36 people put up in private accommodation in 2017/18 were placed in the district, instead being sent to live as far away as Dunstable.

A total of 171 people were housed in accommodation run or owned by the council, whereas 130 were in 2012/13.

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Karen Dragovic continued: “We do undertake a lot of work at a local level to try and mitigate the effects of these trends.

“This includes joint working with partner organisations, such as Citizens Advice, to identify people facing homelessness so we can intervene at an early stage to try and prevent it happening.

“We also work with housing associations on initiatives to increase the supply of social housing in the district.

“The council has developed a number of little-used garage sites into affordable homes and by January 2019 we will have completed 48 properties for rent to applicants on our Housing Register.

“We also refer people to the local Credit Union to allow them to secure a loan to pay for a deposit and a month’s rent in advance to secure properties for rent.

“A further initiative is the creation of a private lettings scheme that involves us working with landlords to increase the supply of housing options available to those in temporary accommodation.

“Placing people in temporary accommodation does incur a cost, but we try and minimise this by negotiating with providers and looking at all available options,” she added.

St Albans district council is also paying £426,000 to Hightown Housing Association between 2015 and 2021 to support their Open Door homeless shelter.

Hightown is also receiving £143,250 from the council to run a mother and baby service between 2015 and 2021.