Utilising the private sector to aid Liverpool’s homelessness crisis is a “means to an end,” a senior councillor has admitted.
Across the city, there are currently more than 500 households in emergency bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation – used as a measure to provide much-needed housing support. Of these, more than 400 have exceeded the six-week limit to be in temporary accommodation (TA).
In a bid to tackle the reliance on expensive locations and ease the pressure on Liverpool Council’s financial position, it is being recommended to engage with the private sector to access hundreds of homes for up to five years.
Cllr Sarah Doyle, cabinet member for housing, told the authority’s sustainable, safe and thriving communities how the contract – which is estimated to value £19m over the next five years – was not something it had strived to enter into. She said, “It’s a means to an end, we’ve been forced into this after years of austerity.
“It is not an aspiration. We have to make sure children aren’t growing up in temporary accommodation.”
It was revealed last year how since 2019, the amount spent on households in temporary accommodation has risen from £250,000 to more than £19m – £3m more than the annual budget set by the city.
Around 900 people are in TAs and since the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (2018), 57% of councils have reported an increase in the use of TAs.
Zulfiqar Mulak MBE, interim director of housing, said the move to engage the private sector would help to address the continuing high number of people presenting as homeless or requiring housing support.
Committee documents said at present, the council does not have a sufficient supply of affordable suitable accommodation to meet the demand, resulting in the authority having to place households in “unsuitable and expensive B&B settings” for long periods of time, to fulfil its statutory duty, while waiting for the availability of suitable permanent housing accommodation. The council said its situation mirrors the picture nationally.
Mr Mulak added, “B&Bs are not the right place for people to stay” and said the council did “not have an alternative” than to work with private rent providers.
Committee chair Cllr Joe Hanson said while the move was “fraught with danger” homelessness was a “major issue for this city” and had to be challenged collectively, “it shouldn’t be political,” he added.
The plans will be recommended to be agreed by cabinet when it meets next month