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Council devise strategy for housing and homelessness
A new strategy aimed at improving housing and preventing homelessness in the borough will be discussed by councillors next week
The draft Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeper strategy looks at a number of key areas in the housing sector, such as developing new homes, reducing empty homes, preventing and eradicating homelessness and taking a proactive approach to meeting central government housing targets.
The strategy focuses on five main aims:
· Prioritise the supply of safe, genuinely affordable housing – Providing housing that fits the needs of local people, offering genuinely affordable housing by working closely with housing associations, private landlords and South Essex Homes. The new housing target for Southend-on-Sea is for 11,140 new homes to be provided between 2016 and 2026. Currently, the council provides an average of 329 properties per year, meaning the council must provide around three times this amount to reach the new targets. This can be achieved by building new developments, supporting local housing associations to grow and also by ensuring any empty homes in the borough are bought back into use.
· Regeneration and growth to create inclusive, healthy places to live and thrive – Ensuring local infrastructure can suitably manage with the increase in housing. Working with other departments at the council, the aim is to not only provide housing, but to ensure residents can access all necessary facilities such as schools, the hospital, parks and green spaces and other local amenities.
· Encourage good quality housing design, management and maintenance – It is vitally important to provide housing that is made to last, and will offer residents a safe-haven, and not have to worry about potential costly repairs. The Grenfell tragedy led to a national rethink in how to ensure all social housing is not only designed and built, but also maintained to the highest safety standards, and the council is fully focused on delivering safe accommodation across the borough.
· Support people to live independently in their own homes and avoid homelessness – This strategy is not only to ensure we can accommodate more residents in good quality housing, but also to ensure those at risk of losing their tenancy or accommodation are able to stay in their homes. There is also a focus on vulnerable adults who need support services. This aim looks to offer continued support to those who need it most.
· Where not prevented, make homelessness brief and non-recurrent – The council is aiming to prevent homelessness where possible, however there are certain cases where this is not possible. However the council is committed to ensuring those who do unfortunately become homeless are receiving as much support as they need, and spend as little time sleeping rough as possible, easing the pressure on local charities and groups such as Harp. Working closely with these groups and partners, the council is committed to making a difference to the homeless community.
Whilst the strategy will focus on these five main aims, these are purely guidelines for what the council is aiming to achieve. Each aim covers a different aspect of housing or homelessness, and will enable proactive joint-thinking between the council, South Essex Homes, local charities and groups and private landlords throughout the borough.
Councillor Tony Cox, cabinet member for adults and housing, said: “Southend-on-Sea faces a number housing, homelessness and rough sleeping issues and we are committed to tackling these head on with our partners and the local community.
“This draft strategy highlights our commitment to providing more affordable housing across the Borough, reduce empty homes and support people to live independently. We will also continue to work hard to prevent homelessness wherever we can, and reduce rough sleeping where it does occur.
“This work will link in with our emerging ambition so that we can ensure Southend is a welcoming, healthy and safe place to live and work.”