Published: 10:11, 30 October 2020
| Updated: 10:12, 30 October 2020
An empty office block in a high street has been bought by the council to convert into temporary flats for homeless families.
Foy House, opposite Sands Hotel in Margate, was previously used by Orbit Housing, but became empty in February last year, with Thanet council eyeing it up for new homes.
The authority has now snapped up the building and unveiled its plans for eight flats, four of them aimed at families with children who find themselves homeless.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Helen Whitehead says the plans are a chance for the council to show what it is capable of as a temporary accommodation provider.
"Our aim is to provide flexible, secure and well-planned accommodation to reduce stress for our residents and increase our direct provision to ensure that as few individuals or families are placed out of area," she said during a meeting of the overview and scrutiny panel.
"This is a new and exciting provision for us and we are determined to plan it well.
"As we have not done this before we have taken advice regarding layout and fittings from professionals and colleagues from across Kent, to ensure we are providing the best arrangement possible in this flagship project."
'Houses are not simply buildings, they are homes' - Cllr Helen Whitehead
The scheme will provide four two-bed flats to house families of four, and four one-bed flats, which Cllr Whitehead says will cover their key demographics and provide a good mix of households.
A design team has drawn up different layouts and proposals which will go out to consultation once formal plans are submitted, expected to be imminently.
"All our units are designed to maximise space, provide essential facilities, promote energy efficient usage and, very importantly, provide facilities that specifically keeps the needs of households in temporary accommodation in mind," said Cllr Whitehead.
"All have open-plan living and dining rooms to try to maximise the feeling of space at a time when families need considerate use of space the most.
"They all have access to the courtyard garden and lift to increase accessibility.
"Families and individuals who find themselves in need will have very good-size storage cupboards and access to a communal laundry room.
"A bike store will also be provided."
Cllr Whitehead says the internal strip-out will take place in January, with work starting on the development in April and expected to be complete in early 2022.
The council will be consulting with residents and nearby businesses.
Cllr Whitehead said: "Foy House is yet another important step towards out housing service becoming a strong centralised local provider.
"It offers us a chance to provide high-quality accommodation for families in difficult situations and under our protection as their landlord.
"We have a duty to protect families and residents, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. Tenants have a right to high-quality, well-planned housing regardless of the permanence of their residency.
"Houses are not simply buildings, they are homes, and in no area is this more important to be aware of than in temporary accommodation."