Liverpool council requests 'urgent support' from Government over temporary accommodation crisis

Granada Reports journalist, Emma Sweeney, investigates how the housing crisis in the North West is affecting families and vulnerable people.

Liverpool City Council have requested "urgent support" from the Government to help tackle the city's housing and homelessness crisis.

It comes as a record number of families are stuck in temporary accommodation, as councils across the North West find themselves at "breaking point" when it comes to dealing with homelessness.

For Warren Smith, from Liverpool, he's been in temporary accommodation for over a year.

Warren said: "I have literally seen good people crumble before my eyes. It's like they have been left and ignored and become the worse version of themselves."

At first his young son lived in the accommodation with him, but it was deemed unsuitable and now Warren lives alone.

He said: "The part that kills me is going to bed and waking up and my son not being there. I would take having my kids causing a bonfire in the mornings to wake up to over what I have currently. Any day of the week."

Warren has been in temporary accommodation for more than a year, and has had to give up his son.

While Warren's situation has taken a toll on his mental health, many people don't even have cooking facilities.

Sheifa - not her real name - is a victim of domestic abuse and was placed into temporary accommodation.

Despite a million empty homes nationally, she and her children have been stuck in B&Bs for almost a year - the legal limit is 6 weeks.

Sheifa said "I just feel desperate. I just want a permanent home where I can feel peace and safe. A place where I can take care of my basic needs like cooking. I have children with me who are at school age. It's difficult to maintain the family. "We have to share everything. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We get irritated very easily; even if we don't mean to but we can't help it. We are here together almost all the time. We just share everything."

Liverpool City Council expects to have spent more than £19 million on temporary accommodation in 2023.

Record numbers of people in the North West are in similar positions to Sheifa and Warren.

The Government has promised an increase in housing benefits in 2024, which it says will help to alleviate the numbers in temporary accommodation.

However, those changes are little comfort for those stuck in that situation right now.

In Liverpool, the issue is particularly acute. Currently, 550 households are stuck in costly B&Bs, many with children.

A homeless emergency has been declared and council wants the government to step in.

It predicts to spend £19.4m on such accommodation during this financial year, against a budget of £16m, with an increase in no fault evocations and an acceleration of asylum decisions being blamed.

Housing solicitor Siobhan Ward-Taylor says it is also partly down to a lack of preventative action from the council. 

Siobhan said: "Because of serious delays and serious issues with them picking up referrals for help, people are not getting looked at until the day of their evictions so there is no way of preventing homelessness in that situation."

But the council says it works well with partners and insists this is a national problem which needs national support. 

Councillor Liam Robinson, Leader of Liverpool City Council, said: "That is why we want to work with the government frankly to find ways to bring private properties back into use.

"We have a number of private properties across the city that are vacant at this moment in time.

"We do do things like put additional council tax rates onto landlords that are keeping properties vacant. We want to get people into those properties. Equally as well we want to build a lot more new social housing. as part of the solution."

In neighbouring Manchester, the headlines differ - at a time when the numbers in temporary housing are at an all time high, the council say they’ve worked hard to buck the national trend and remove families from B&Bs.

It is a move that has been widely welcomed. But in order to do it, they’ve used a range of measures, including utilising the private rented sector. 

It's not unusual for council's to work with the private sector to tackle homelessness, but some professionals are cautious about this particular strategy.

Kathy Cosgrove, from Manchester Law Centre said "My main concern is that this is a short term solution.

Greater Manchester Law Centre has criticised Manchester's reliance on the private renting sector.

"When the council say we are discharging our duty to you with an offer of private rental accommodation and the deal they do with the landlord is for rent that a person cannot afford; sometimes double what they can afford or on the basis of financial incentives for a period of time.

"When they come to an end then the person either can't afford to stay or is told to leave by the landlord because they want those new financial incentives that come with a new person.

"The council run the risk of inflating rents more widely because neighbouring landlords are going to say now the market rate is what the council are paying and so i can charge that as well."

Councillor Joanna Midgley, Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council said "we have 2,800 households in temporary accommodation so we have to use private rented accommodation.

"Ideally we would not do that but there are not enough affordable homes for those people to go and live in.

"But what we are trying to do is to look at different options. For example, we are looking at buildings that he council owns that we may be able to turn into temporary accommodation."

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