Figures reveal increasing number of homelessness applications in St Edmundsbury over last four years

Homelessness is increasingly a problem in St Edmundsbury. PA Photo.

Homelessness is increasingly a problem in St Edmundsbury. PA Photo. - Credit: PA

The number of homelessness applications submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council has more than doubled in the last four years, new figures have revealed.

Homelessness applications per year for west Suffolk

Homelessness applications per year for west Suffolk - Credit: Archant

People losing their jobs and high private rents are among the factors thought to be behind the rise, from 110 applications in 2011/12 to 274 in 2013/14.

According to the data, seen in a Freedom of Information request submitted by the EADT, the number of applications for this financial year, as at March 17, stood at 244.

The number of households placed into temporary accommodation has also been increasing, with 82 in 2011/12 compared to 124 in 2013/14. Of those, the number of households with dependant children was 45 and 53, respectively.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has this year adopted a joint homelessness strategy with Forest Heath District Council which will focus on increasing the provision of specialist housing, such as temporary accommodation, and providing timely support for those threatened with losing their home.

Those behind the strategy said the biggest cause of homelessness was the loss of private rented accommodation, which accounted for 35% of cases from 2010 to 2014. That is in line with national trends.

Jane Ballard, manager of the west Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “I think we have been seeing an increase in general with housing issues, and with privately rented housing.”

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She said changes to the welfare system meant housing benefit often no longer covered all the rent.

The homelessness strategy said a snapshot survey in July 2014 found only 5% of available private rented properties in St Edmundsbury and 9% in Forest Heath had rental levels that could be fully met by housing benefit.

Mrs Ballard added: “We are not keeping pace with the number of people who need housing. We are not building enough houses to keep pace with it. That’s an ongoing issue, and I think perhaps landlords are becoming tougher in the last couple of years [in terms of rent arrears].”

A spokesman for St Edmundbury and Forest Heath councils said factors such as the recession, people losing their jobs and high private rents all contributed to the increase in the number of people requiring temporary accommodation.

“West Suffolk councils recognise the need to increase the amount of temporary housing available, and to reduce dependency on bed and breakfast accommodation which is both costly and less suitable, particularly for families with children.”

St Edmundsbury’s budget forecast for 2015/16 shows a saving of £15,000 in terms of B&B costs.

The council spokesman added: “We have already purchased a house of multiple occupancy in Lake Avenue [in Bury St Edmunds] and we are actively looking for other opportunities to increase our temporary housing provision, either through purchase or through agreements with registered providers.

“Finally our West Suffolk housing strategy adopted last year aims to increase the amount of housing being delivered across both St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath via buying, building, or working with our various partners including registered providers.”