West Lothian Council to buy back 30 ex-council homes to save £900,000 in B&B costs

West Lothian Council has approved plans to buy back 30 ex-council homes which will be converted to provide a roof over the heads of up to 60 homeless young people.

The sharing spaces scheme will be used to provide temporary accommodation for local young people in need of emergency housing. It could eventually save the council close to £900,000 which is currently spent on B&B payments.

The council has a statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation to homeless applicants who need help with housing. It continues to experience a high demand for assistance from people who are homeless and require temporary accommodation.

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At the end of September, there were 9,762 applications in West Lothian with over 850 homeless applications. There are 1,260 people housed in temporary accommodation with 146 people in bed and breakfast. Around 32 per cent of all temporary accommodation residents are under 18.

Stock shot by John Devlin.

In a report to the council’s Executive, Sarah Kelly, the interim housing needs manager, outlined plans to buy back 30 two bedroom ex-council homes for conversion into two-person temporary sharing spaces. The council estimates the project will cost £3.75 million which includes the purchase of the homes, repair costs and furniture.

The homes can be converted back to mainstream council housing when required.

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Depute SNP group leader Robert de Bold gave cautious support for the plan and sought guarantees on shared accommodation being single sex and supported. Housing officers gave assurances that staff support similar to that already in shared spaces would be in place.

“I have some reservations and I would like monitoring reports to come back to the relevant PDSP within six months,” said Cllr de Bold.

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Depute Chief Executive, Graeme Struthers, gave an assurance that the scheme would be monitored and reports returned to the relevant committees.

Cllr Andrew McGuire (Lab) said: “I’d would be supportive of anything that keeps people out of B&Bs and keeps a roof over their head.”

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Executive councillor for services for the community, George Paul added: “There is a clear need to take action to tackle homelessness in West Lothian and this is a positive step forward in helping local people at a time when they are in desperate need.

“To reduce the number of people in B&B accommodation, a number of actions are being put in place to provide suitable temporary accommodation, including dedicated new build housing for young people and sharing spaces for single homeless applicants.

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“Single homeless applicants make up 71 per cent of all homeless applicants in West Lothian, and sharing accommodation can often be a more suitable placement for young people as this provides peer support which reduces social isolation often felt by young homeless people, whilst our officers have an opportunity to assist in building their skills to move into settled accommodation and sustain a successful long term tenancy.

“The council already has sharing accommodation at Blackburn Homeless Unit which works well and we are pleased to be able to move forward with our plans to provide more accommodation.”