In response to the growing financial strain on Liverpool Council and the increasing number of individuals seeking temporary accommodation to avoid homelessness, a pioneering plan involving the private sector has been approved by the local authority’s cabinet.
Liverpool, contending with an annual influx of approximately 6,500 individuals presenting themselves as homeless, has witnessed a staggering 10,000% surge in the financial burden borne by the city council over the past five years. To meet the pressing need for housing support, the council has resorted to costly measures such as hotel stays and bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Now, a strategic move to engage the private rented sector for accessing hundreds of homes over a five-year period has been hailed as a “means to an end.”
At present, more than 500 households across the city find themselves in emergency bed-and-breakfast or hotel accommodations. This measure, designed to offer immediate housing support, has proven to be a stopgap solution for over 400 households that have surpassed the six-week limit for temporary accommodation (TA).
The financial repercussions for the council are significant, with TA costs catapulting from £250,000 in 2019 to a projected £25 million by the end of the current financial year. This eye-watering 10,000% increase within half a decade now places the expenditure on temporary housing on par with the entire budget allocated for culture, tourism, parks, and youth services combined. Funding such a substantial outlay would necessitate a hefty 12.5% increase in Council Tax across the city.
The cabinet member for housing expressed endorsement for the plan, which entails families transitioning into private rented properties temporarily until a more permanent solution is secured. The lamentation focused on the “devastating” number of people residing in temporary accommodation, especially when empty properties scatter the city landscape. Emphasizing the use of the private sector as a “means to an end,” the urgency of addressing the shortage of affordable homes in the city was underscored.
The council leader, co-author of a letter sent to the Secretary of State last year detailing the gravity of the crisis and the imperative need for government support, criticized the lack of action from Westminster. The situation was decried as a “national crisis with a national government not prepared to face up to it.”
The proposed initiative aims to kick off negotiations with private sector agents from June of this year. As the council strives to mitigate the current homelessness crisis, the move towards involving the private sector stands as a testament to the multifaceted approach required to address the complex challenges faced by Liverpool and cities grappling with similar issues nationwide. The success of this initiative could serve as a blueprint for other regions wrestling with the intricate interplay of homelessness and strained public finances.
In conclusion, the adoption of the plan represents a pivotal moment in Liverpool’s ongoing battle against homelessness, with hopes pinned on the private sector’s collaboration to alleviate the financial burden on the local authority. As discussions with private sector agents commence in June, the city anticipates progress in providing not just temporary respite but a lasting solution to the plight of those in dire need of secure and affordable housing. The broader implications of this initiative extend beyond Liverpool, prompting a broader conversation about the role of the private sector in addressing homelessness on a national scale.