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Home Sittingbourne News Article
A decision on whether to open a Swale council-run bed and breakfast is set to be decided tonight.
As revealed in November, the local authority has been putting a business case together to buy a property to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless.
Now cabinet members are being asked to approve the proposal when they meet at Swale House, East Street, Sittingbourne.
It’s estimated a capital investment of £180,000 is needed to buy a three or four bedroom house and carry out any refurbishments.
A total of £150,000 would come from monies awarded to the council for bringing empty houses back into use. In addition there is £36,800 available from private sector sources.
However, the plan has received a lukewarm response from the opposition Labour group which says the council is only “paying lip service” to homelessness.
The facility would be based in Sittingbourne and initially managed by housing services with an additional part-time worker partly funded through an estimated full-occupancy rental income of £312 a week.
The local authority has a legal duty to provide emergency accommodation to homeless households.
But due to increasing demands, there have been occasions nothing has been available in or outside the borough. To deal with the issue, the Premier Inn and other hotels have been used.
The current average cost to the council of three households living in temporary accommodation over 52 weeks, is £27,500.
It believes that by having its own building, within time it will be making savings of almost £19,000.
Should it no longer be required, the plan is to either rent the property out at £650 per month or sell it on the open market.
Cllr John Wright, cabinet member for housing, said: “The budget for emergency accommodation has already been increased for the current financial year.
"And during a time of reducing funds; we must look at alternative options that can maintain our priority of helping to keep our residents safe.”
The opposition Labour group says the plan only goes some way to solving the problem of homelessness.
Party leader Cllr Mike Haywood said: “It is getting out of hand in Swale and the costs to the council in carrying out their statutory duties have gone up by nearly five times in the last three years.
“It’s essentially a stop-gap measure. One property does very little to solve the overall growing problem.
“We are in a situation for the first time in many years where the council simply cannot cope with the rise in homelessness.
“This is a reflection of the failure to plan and provide affordable housing at the level required in the borough.”
Deputy leader Cllr Adam Tolhurst added: “After years of doing nothing about spearheading the building of much needed affordable homes in the borough, the Tories are now paying lip service to a worsening problem, rather than working hard to halt the growing issue of demand outstripping the social housing available.
“With £14 million of taxpayers’ money sitting in reserves, this latest piecemeal move shows the Conservatives’ regard helping the homeless as a very low priority for them.”
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