‘It’s very difficult for us to meet the demand’ - Stevenage Borough Council says it is struggling to find enough housing for those in desperate need and blames ‘muddled’ government policy

Council leader Sharon Taylor at the opening of the 40-bed Stevenage Haven hostel

Council leader Sharon Taylor at the opening of the 40-bed Stevenage Haven hostel - Credit: Archant

Stevenage is facing a housing crisis and it’s increasingly difficult to find enough accommodation for the homeless or those in desperate need, leading councillors warned this week.

Despite the opening of the new 40-bed town centre Haven hostel before Easter, Stevenage Borough Council says it is struggling to cope with spiralling numbers of homeless people and families in crisis needing temporary accommodation.

At a meeting of the council’s executive on Tuesday, councillors said they are having to resort to using expensive private landlords to meet their legal obligations.

The numbers of households in temporary or emergency accommodation in the town increased from 40 in 2012 to 101 in the current year, and the number of homeless people accepted into temporary accommodation doubled from 46 to 90 over the same period.

Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “It’s very difficult for us to keep up with the level of demand.

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“It’s a problem all over the country but particularly in the south and in areas of high demand like Stevenage.

“It’s not helped by the increasing disparity between wages and house prices.

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“The Haven doesn’t meet the full demand. They have been turning away about 500 applications each year.”

Councillor Taylor blames the government’s housing policy for preventing the council building new social housing while demanding it accepts more homeless people.

“The government’s housing policy is in a complete muddle,” she said.

“It is taking housing away from our stock by encouraging Right to Buy on the one hand, and giving us more duties to house people on the other.

“There are 2,500 families on the waiting list so every time we give someone temporary accommodation they have to wait even longer.”

She says putting people in privately rented homes will simply mean the council has to shell out more in housing benefit to help them out at a time when it cannot afford to do so.

She called a special meeting of the executive to try to work out a solutions to the growing problem.

Councillor Simon Speller, who represents the Pin Green ward, said: “We’re facing a housing crisis caused by the overheating of the housing market locally and in London.”

He expressed frustration that some London boroughs are contributing to hikes in private rents by arranging accommodation for their tenants in Stevenage and not informing the council when they do so.

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