Agenda item

Homelessness Strategy - six-monthly progress report

Report of the Director City Development



The Service Lead - Housing Needs & Homelessness, in introducing his report, made particular reference to:-

·       the pathway to making applications;

·       the temporary accommodation service;

·       the emphasis of the entire service on maximising prevention, involving mediation;

·       the increase in levels of homelessness;

·       the 10% increase in applications in the last 12 months (not just in Exeter but all over the country);

·       the statutory “Duty to Defer”;

·       the impact of the withdrawal of funding from Devon County Council; and

·       how the temporary accommodation numbers had doubled.


He responded to questions from Members as follows:-

·       the additional funding from Government towards probation accommodation amounted to one full-time staff and there was no specific funding for accommodation;

·       Exeter Prison definitely did have an impact on homelessness, especially with regard to rough sleepers;

·       Exeter City Council was only aware of an inmate’s release when the prison referred the information;

·       verification of address for released prisoners was not a thorough process;

·       the reality was that there weren’t enough homes available;

·       Concord House had been offered to ECC at one stage but it was unaffordable;

·       he was not aware of any large developments being used to accommodate homeless people that had existing structural issues;

·       the people being housed at the Great Western Hotel did have some breakfast facility provided and a communal kitchen was being discussed;

·       the Great Western Hotel was currently at the highest level of occupancy;

·       ECC would continue to use the Great Western Hotel for now;

·       he did not anticipate a change of use application to be necessary for the Great Western Hotel but admitted that it was a short-term solution that had gone on for longer than planned;

·       some hotels were not available for local authority use and some were subject to a strict cap of number of bookings;

·       the Great Western Hotel’s capacity was now capped regarding the number of rooms that could be made available to ECC;

·       the figure of 11 homeless deaths was unfortunately accurate; the majority of deaths being people who were ‘street-attached’ and had housing as opposed to being street homeless;

·       although toxicology results were not yet available, it was clear that synthetic opioids were having a serious detrimental impact on homelessness in Exeter;

·       there had been an increase in drug education programmes;

·       homelessness teams deployed naloxone (anti-opiod medicine used to arrest overdose) and testing strips for users to pre-assess drug components were being considered alongside collaborative work with local needle exchange outlets;

·       the vast majority of accommodation provided were self-contained units with en-suite facilities;

·       he was unable to give a number of children currently in temporary accommodation but advised that it was not high, and endeavoured to provide Members with the exact number;

·       the Council was acutely aware of the need not to expose care leavers and young persons to exploitation and other risk issues and assessments did take place although it was not always possible to offer a 100% guarantee of suitable accommodation for a young person;

·       the Great Western Hotel had 24/7 trained security staff;

·       ECC was currently working closely with Devon County Council commissioners to increase bespoke service provision for young persons including care leavers ;

·       every risk assessment was being undertaken to minimise risk of mixing the needs of household placements in temporary accommodation (e.g. modelling gender-specific / women-only housing) and, where this was not possible, ECC proactively sought alternative accommodation solutions;

·       the loss of capacity caused by Airbnb did have an impact and there hadn’t been any rent reductions in the private sector, but the Housing Needs & Homelessness Team had been lobbying the Government through the District Council Network; and Homelessness Advisory team; and

·       he wasn’t aware of any discussions having taken place to include homelessness units with co-living providers.


On the subject of no-fault evictions:-

·       the Service Lead - Housing Needs & Homelessness confirmed that they did have an impact but there was little evidence that they were significantly on the increase; the exception being landlords withdrawing from the market due to mortgage / property loan affordability pressures;

·       the Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention noted that, according to Shelter, the end of a short-term lease was the number one cause of homelessness;

·       Members received confirmation that this trend was being closely monitored;

·       the Chair remarked that being a landlord was a commitment; and

·       the Service Lead - Housing Needs & Homelessness confirmed that the affordability gap in the private sector as well as the social housing sector was increasing and stressed the importance of the financial assistance work being carried out by team.


The Portfolio Holder for Communities and Homelessness Prevention praised the Housing Needs & Homelessness team and remarked that, in Exeter, no one had been homeless for more than six months, which was rare for a local authority.


The Chair invited Councillor Sparling to put in writing her suggestion that Co-Lab and St Petrock’s be invited to a future meeting of this committee; her proposal would then be discussed at the next meeting of the Scrutiny Programme Board.


Members noted the report of the Service Lead - Housing Needs & Homelessness.



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