THE number of people living in temporary accommodation has increased in the last year, despite the number of those being made homeless in West Berkshire significantly falling.
According to figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, West Berkshire Council had placed 53 households in temporary accommodation, including 13 in either a bed and breakfast or hostel, as of March 2017.
The number has risen from 50 in March 2016, when six people were staying in B&Bs, while of the 47 living in temporary accommodation as of March 2012, 10 were in placed in either a B&B or hostel.
The increase is in stark contrast to the number of households accepted as becoming homeless in the district, which, as the Newbury Weekly News reported last week, has fallen by 60 per cent since 2012.
However, West Berkshire Council’s executive member for housing, Hilary Cole, defended the council’s record in housing the homeless saying the figures only provided a “snapshot” of the situation.
The latest statistics again raise questions over the length of time some people are housed in temporary accommodation by the council.
In March, a report revealed that the local authority could be in breach of its statutory duty by housing families in B&Bs for longer than the six-week legal limit, owing to a shortage of housing stock.
The damning document said it was “highly likely” that families with children would need to stay in B&Bs for longer than six weeks.
As a result, the council committed to spending £1.9m on purchasing more housing in order to provide temporary accommodation.
A local authority has a duty to provide temporary accommodation to families and individuals who find themselves without a home who meet certain criteria – often using B&Bs and hostels when council-owned housing or housing association stock is not available.
However, the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed earlier this year that a chronic shortage of affordable housing is forcing cash-strapped councils across the country to spend more than £2m a day on temporary accommodation for homeless families.
While according to national homeless charity Shelter, one in four homeless households in England stay in temporary accommodation for more than a year before being rehoused, while 1,290 families spend more than the six-week legal limit living in B&Bs.
In West Berkshire, the use of B&Bs and hostels as temporary accommodation has more than doubled compared to the previous year.
Responding to the figures, Mrs Cole, said: “The accommodation figures provide a snapshot. In this case, it shows the number of households accommodated on March 31 2017.
“Because it is a snapshot, it is not possible to read a trend from it because it does not show the duty that the council has to individuals.
“For example, whether the household needs settled accommodation or if we are accommodating them prior to making a decision on their homelessness application.
“The B&B figures and local authority/housing association stock figures are very similar to the figures for the previous year.
“The council has set aside a sum of money to purchase temporary accommodation for homeless people and are actively looking at properties.”