News release from 04/07/2018

Council prevents over 200 families from becoming homeless

More than 200 families were prevented from becoming homeless last year, thanks to South Cambridgeshire District Council’s housing team.

Residents are being reminded that the sooner they ask the authority for help with housing-related issues, the more options the Council has to help people.

During 2017/18, 208 families in South Cambridgeshire were saved from being left with no housing option following intervention work by the District Council’s Housing Advice and Options team.

That figure increased from 126 during the previous year (2016/17).

Council housing bosses have said that the main way they have prevented local families from becoming homeless is through working with landlords to secure private rented accommodation. This can include payment towards arrears, assisting with a deposit and helping guarantee rent in advance. Alongside this, where possible and appropriate, social rented housing is offered to those most in need.

The primary cause of homelessness in South Cambridgeshire is when people lose an assured short hold tenancy. This is the most frequently used tenancy agreement in the letting of residential properties. This reason accounts for almost four in ten of all homeless cases that the authority deals with.

Another way the Council is helping keep people housed is via Shire Homes, its private sector leasing scheme. This was set up as a way of helping residents who need assistance to be able to afford to rent a private property locally. Landlords sign up for a minimum of three years to let their good quality properties via this comprehensive management scheme, which offers guaranteed rental income. The Council takes over management of the properties and offers them to those needing homes at an affordable rent below market rate, increasing the availability of affordable housing in South Cambridgeshire.

Additionally, South Cambridgeshire District Council is part of a rent solutions service with other local Councils, which offers specialist assistance and advice to agents, landlords and tenants. It aims to help maintain tenancies and try to help resolve tenancy problems that may otherwise lead to evictions. This can include assistance with issues such as debt problems leading to rent arrears and property repairs and maintenance.

New legislation introduced in April this year places a legal duty on Councils to prevent homelessness. Housing bosses have added that, with a strong prevention ethos, South Cambridgeshire District Council is well geared-up for this new approach. For every household facing the prospect of homelessness, a personal housing plan is agreed which includes tasks for both the family and Council to carry out so people are given the best possible chance to keep a roof over their head.

Jade Patman and her family, including her young baby, were forced to give up their tenancy in the private sector as they couldn’t afford it anymore. They were initially given temporary Council accommodation, and will shortly be moving into a property in Bar Hill that’s being provided by Shire Homes Lettings, the Council’s private sector leasing scheme. Jade said: “We found the costs in the private rented sector impossible to meet, so were forced to spend some time in an overcrowded house with other family members. This was really stressful and we were faced with the prospect of becoming homeless as a result of the situation. However, within a few weeks of contacting South Cambridgeshire District Council, we were found temporary accommodation. We were listened to as real people, and shown real empathy. We’re now moving into a small family home, at a rent we can afford, and are really grateful for the support from the Council.”

A father from Histon, who wanted to share his story but chose to remain anonymous, said: “I was in a relationship for ten years but unfortunately it broke down, which meant I was staying at my parent’s house. I was facing the prospect of being homeless because my parents were downsizing, which left me with nowhere to go. It was an awful time, but the support I received from South Cambridgeshire District Council was brilliant. They helped me to secure a property via Ermine Street Housing, the Council’s housing company, when I was finding it impossible to find somewhere in the private rented sector. The Council even put me in touch with a local charity who are helping me out with furniture. I’ve now got my own space, with enough room for the kids to come around.”

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Hazel Smith, said: “These figures illustrate exactly why bringing forward more affordable housing of all types in South Cambridgeshire is a top priority for us. The fact that we’ve been able to keep a roof over the heads of so many families is testament to the hard work of our hugely dedicated housing team. They really do everything in their power to help households that are in danger of losing their homes. I would urge any South Cambridgeshire resident who faces housing issues to get in touch with us as early as possible. The sooner they tell us there could be trouble on the horizon, the more chance we have of working with them, landlords and letting agents to stop them facing the prospect of being homeless.”