Boost for temporary housing to help East Lothian homeless

A SCRAMBLE for temporary accommodation in East Lothian has sparked emergency plans to increase homeless provision.

Thursday, 14th April 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2016, 12:04 pm
Homeless and unable to afford a property. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Demand is outstripping supply, a problem which has been growing since a law change introduced in 2012 which saw people previously deemed “non-priority” given the right to interim shelter until they were re-homed.

East Lothian Council is forced to rely on B&Bs as a “fall back” when unable to secure temporary housing, with around 60 people a night using them. The nationwide crisis has hit the area particularly hard because of the “relatively small proportion” of one bedroom houses in its housing stock.

And councillors voted this week voted to increase provision to 200 under the Private Sector Lease contract in a bid to tackle the problem. The authority is also looking at a “range of options” including new build, revised allocation as well as new options such as flat shares.

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The council has bought 26 housing units scattered across East Lothian where “the demand is greatest”.

Cllr Norman Hampshire, cabinet member for housing, said: “Recent changes in homelessness legislation have led to a growth in demand for temporary accommodation particularly from single people. Because of the relatively small proportion of one bedroom houses in East Lothian’s housing stock the council has been adversely affected by this change.

“The council has temporary accommodation available from a variety of sources including its own housing stock, leased from other Registered Social Landlords and private sector lets.”

The council now has 60 families and individuals using B&Bs, a further 250 in various forms of temporary accommodation and 38 people in different types of supported accommodation.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said that last year more people were in temporary accommodation in East Lothian “than ever before”.

He said: “Temporary accommodation provides an important safety net for families that have lost their home, but extended stays can be detrimental to wellbeing, particularly for children. While it is good news the council is acting to increase its temporary accommodation capacity, this is only a short–term answer to the area’s growing number of homeless people. The only long-term solution is to build many more affordable homes.”

He added: “While homelessness across Scotland on the whole is decreasing, the number of children in temporary accommodation increased to nearly 5000 last year and the length of time they stay there is getting longer.

!At the heart of these statistics is Scotland’s housing crisis. They are evidence of the need for a political commitment to major house building to deliver 12,000 new affordable homes each year for the next five years and the need for a new National Homelessness Strategy.”