Could selling land to affordable housing providers help solve massive increase in homelessness applications?
PUBLISHED: 09:08 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 June 2019
County bosses are being urged to tackle rising homelessness by providing affordable housing and financial help.
The Labour group at Suffolk County Council has criticised the ruling Conservative group for slashing millions of pounds from Housing Related Support at a time when homelessness applications had reached record levels.
The fund is to help people resolve issues related to homelessness, such as managing health problems.
As reported previously, the number of people making homelessness applications in Suffolk and Essex has reached record levels.
MORE: 'No place to call home' - Massive rise in homelessness applications leaves councils reliant on B&Bs
Some councils recorded a 500% increase in applications after the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in April 2018.
The Act imposed new responsibilities on councils to help people faced with homelessness.
While charities welcomed the new measures, some councils struggled to fulfil their duties due to the cost of private rents, lack of social housing and housing benefit cuts, leading to growing use of emergency B&Bs.
Labour group leader Sarah Adams said the Tories' decision to almost halve Housing Related Support over recent years had made the situation even worse for "hundreds of vulnerable and marginalised people".
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"Their short-termism has pushed a further burden onto an already stretched police and NHS, potentially putting more people on the streets," she added.
SCC said the reduction in HRS funding, which was linked to overall budget cuts, had not reduced the number of places offered to vulnerable people.
The council said it was working with partners to "find innovative solutions to manage the demand on these important services."
Ms Adams also criticised the Conservative group's efforts to create new homes in the county.
SCC co-founded Barley Homes in 2015 with St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils, to develop land for housing.
But after failing to secure planning permission, SCC transferred its share of the company to its other partners.
Ms Adams called on SCC leader Matthew Hicks to ensure county-owned land that he recently announced would be sold off for housing was offered at a discount to affordable housing providers.
Mr Hicks said at the time the sale could provide much needed housing and generate cash for public services. He said proposals would focus on delivering "the kind of homes Suffolk needs.