Leeds City Council’s £1 million housing crisis

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Leeds City Council has spent just more than £1m on providing emergency accommodation for the homeless in the last year, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the £1m spent by the council in 2012/13 was nearly twice the £540,000 from the previous year.

The cost been rising since 2010/11 - when it stood at £209,000 - as the housing crisis continues to deepen in the economic downturn.

Residents are put into emergency accommodation when deemed homeless in what is meant to be a temporary move - but figures show people have been going months without a proper home. One stay racked up 46 weeks in 2012/13, costing a total of £36,463.

The cost for placing households in B&B accommodation has also doubled over the past year – from £83,962 in 2011/12 to £169,348 in 2012/13.

The longest B&B stay in 2012/13 lasted 41 weeks, at £45 a night, costing £12,915.

Council bosses told the YEP it recognised the rocketing costs were “unsustainable” and has now had a radical overhaul of its response to homelessness. Its forecast cost for 2013/14 was expected to fall to £100,000.

Coun John Hardy, lead member for homelessness, said: “There is a new attitude and new way of working, of moving people on and helping them to get sorted out and their lives back on track. We deal with people on the day.”

He said the new system scrapped B&Bs and places more residents in private rentals, where they can then apply for housing benefit.

As previously reported in the YEP, there remains a huge backlog in Leeds of social housing - with around 15,000 currently on waiting lists. The council recently agreed to spend £40m to boost housing stock - a move charities say is of key importance. Dave Paterson, of Unity in Poverty Action in Leeds, said a concern with private landlords is the emphasis on making money, rather than tenants’ welfare. “To me, social housing is more ethical - the responsibilty underneath is to care for people. Social housing is key and the more we can get of it, the better. I fully support every effort the council’s making to get on with what are really difficult situations.”

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