Cabinet asked to approve Housing Revenue Account to help solve city's homelessness crisis

Cabinet members will be asked to approve the launch of a Housing Revenue Account (HRA), enabling the council to provide hundreds of new homes over the coming decades to help solve the city's homelessness crisis.

Over the past year, there has been a 56% rise in households approaching the city council to declare themselves as homeless. This is due to national trends and Peterborough's position as the 5th fastest growing city in England.  

At a cabinet meeting on Monday 23 September, members will hear how the council's homeless strategy is working. Over the last 12 months it has removed the need to house homeless families out of the area, with the last family moving back to the Peterborough area in December 2018. The number of families in B&B accommodation has been reduced down from 146 in September 2018 to 73 this month. And despite the 56% rise in homeless applications, the number of families living in temporary accommodation has been kept steady at roughly 385 a month.

This has been achieved by working with 2,312 families at risk of homelessness - with the aim of keeping them in their own homes, by buying 51 homes on the open market and by working with landlords to secure an additional 48 homes. In addition, Medesham Homes first completed affordable housing scheme which was fully occupied by December 2018 provided 29 new build homes to families who would have otherwise spent Christmas in temporary accommodation.

Members will also hear that they have an opportunity to provide even more temporary accommodation and to make homes more affordable for low income city residents by setting up an in-house HRA. The Government has this year relaxed the laws on HRAs and is now giving councils more opportunities to build up their own housing stock in a bid to solve the national homeless crisis. 

If the council decided to launch its own HRA, it would be able to accelerate the growth of affordable homes in the city - for use as both temporary and long-term accommodation - by
 providing hundreds of new affordable homes over the coming decades. This, coupled with the anticipated delivery of around 280 affordable homes during this financial year plus further affordable homes planned for delivery in the coming years through the combined build programmes of Medesham Homes and other social housing providers, will make a significant contribution to meeting the needs of the city's growing population.  Investment secured from the Combined Authority and Homes England is supporting the delivery of 162 of the affordable homes expected to complete this financial year, with 58 receiving Combined Authority funding and 104 receiving Homes England funding. To date, the Combined Authority has committed to grant funding a total of 221 new affordable homes in Peterborough across five schemes. 

The HRA would be managed by the council and would complement the new homes already being built for residents by the council's long-term partner, Cross Keys Homes and other social housing providers.

Councillor Steve Allen, cabinet member for housing, culture and recreation, said: "Our current homelessness strategy of prevention, coupled with building, buying and working with landlords is working. However, we know we will never turn the tide on homelessness unless we significantly increase the amount of affordable accommodation in Peterborough.

“By launching an HRA we would be able to meet the demands of our growing population and would ensure everyone in this city has a front door they can call their own.

“These homes would be used for temporary and long-term accommodation. They would be managed and operated by the city council, in a similar way in which council homes used to be operated in the 1960s and 1970s. They would provide accommodation in addition to the homes that are provided by our regional social landlords, which have provided - and will continue to provide - a good service to this city for years to come.”

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