The Committee received and considered the report from the Housing Director.
The Housing Director reported that the Covid pandemic highlighted the scale of rough sleeping and the number of individuals in insecure housing at risk of rough sleeping across the Borough. The Rough Sleeping Strategy and Action Plan 2020 produced in response and adopted by Full Council in July 2020, identified the need for a clear pathway approach which ensured that rough sleeper’s accommodation and support needs were assessed to ensure they could access accommodation which met their needs. In considering this pathway approach, it had become clear that there was a gap in the existing provision for rough sleepers with high or complex needs within existing or planned provision.
The Housing Director reported that to meet this need, a new Housing First model scheme had been developed to provide five self-contained properties where rough sleepers would be able to be accommodated for up to two years. These properties would be bought and repaired to ensure that the homes for the scheme met the required standard. Integral to the scheme, was the provision of a personalised, flexible support offer, reflecting the high level of support needed, and there would be one full-time post to support the five individuals who would be housed through the scheme. The Council had submitted a bid to the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme for both capital and revenue funding to deliver the scheme with a decision expected by the end of September/beginning of October 2021.
Councillor Wainwright reported that he welcomed this policy and asked for clarification as to how many people had been identified as being homeless in the Borough at the present time. The Housing Director reported that the last figure she had received, as of Monday this week, there were 14 homeless people in the Borough.
Councillor Wainwright reported that he thought that the Council had identified a building for this scheme subject to a condition survey. The Housing Director reported that the building which Councillor Wainwright was referring to related to the transitional housing scheme, which was a different proposal to this scheme, and was still progressing.
Councillor Wainwright asked if the five houses would be close together or spread throughout the Borough as sometimes, proposals such as this, could cause tensions within a community. The Housing Director reported that they would ideally be sited in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston or a larger village, which had services to offer and would be effectively managed by 1 full-time dedicated officer.
The Chairman reported that the funding allocated allowed for a purchase price of £130k per property which he thought could be inadequate. The Housing Director reported that the confidential appendix to the report provided a breakdown of costs.
Councillor Jeal requested that any housing provided did not incur a weekly rent over the government housing allowance. The Housing Director reported that affordability was the key and the the Universal Credit housing element would be uppermost when an offer was made to ensure that it was affordable for the tenant in the long term.
Councillor Talbot asked if the Council was considering the introduction of "wet houses" as addiction was not a choice, but an illness, and if addicts had a safe home environment and were able to get off of the streets they would have a much better chance of becoming clean and a functioning member of society again. The Housing Director reported that careful consideration would be required as how the Council could best address this issue.
Councillor Martin thanked the Housing Director and her team for all their support in getting this much needed scheme up and running which had been much needed for a very long time.
That the Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee recommend to Full Council:-
1. Approve the purchase and renovation of five properties to be used to meet the needs of rough sleepers with high support needs within the parameters of the project as set out in this report and the Confidential Appendix,
2. Approve, subject to a successful application for grant funding, the expenditure and the borrowing set out in the report at paragraph 3.1. i.e. the purchase, repair and renovation and furnishing of the properties,
3. Delegate decisions in relation to the purchase of the properties and the completion of the required renovation works to the Head of Property and Asset Management and the Section 151 Officer in accordance with the Property Acquisitions and Disposals Policy,
4. Approve the procurement of a third-party support provider to deliver the support and manage the five homes; and
5. Accept the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme grant funding and conditions.