DOUGLAS SHEPHERD reports
The sharp fall in the level of investment in social housing in the Scottish Borders has coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of households being forced to seek shelter in temporary accommodation, according to sets of data released under Freedom of Information regulations.
There are plans to invest up to £22 million in a bid to address a chronic shortage of affordable homes in the region via the council's joint initiative, Bridge Homes Limited Liability Partnership, with plans for 200 house completions. And the latest statistics on expenditure and use of temporary housing units would suggest an increase in the local housing supply cannot come fast enough.
According to the figures some £7.2 million was spent on social housing projects in 2009/10 with a start made on 112 new homes and 165 completions during the following financial year.
But by 2013/14 expenditure had plummeted to just £2.2 million (it was a dismal £800,000 in 2012/13). The number of site starts in 2013/14 was 62 while there were 49 completions in 2014/15.
In a separate Freedom of Information response, statistics show the number of households in temporary accommodation during 2014/15 at 397 was 43 per cent higher than the 276 recorded in 2010/11. Meanwhile the numbers entering temporary housing went up by 57 per cent from 227 in 2010/11 to 357 2014/15.
The mean average cost per night for social sector accommodation is given as £25 before Housing Benefit income is taken into account. The average cost of placing homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation is £53, according to the response.
Scottish Borders Council currently has access to 107 housing units (2013/14 figure) which the local authority sub-lets from local registered social landlords with an additional 67 private sector leases.
The FOI requester also asked how many nights did households accepted as homeless spend in temporary accommodation during 2013/14. In the social sector 74 single households spent a total of 10,777 nights in temporary housing with 37 other households being being accommodated for 8,237 nights. Bed & breakfast establishments were used to provide shelter for the homeless on 369 nights.
In their response, the council add the following caveat: "Figures may under-estimate the total time spent in temporary accommodation as the data set only commenced in April 2013".