Motion passed amid ‘concerning’ acceleration of temporary accommodation problem

Crawley Borough Council has passed a motion to declare a housing emergency amid increasing concern about demands on temporary accommodation and building challenges posed by nutrient neutrality.

Leader of Crawley Council

Michael Jones, leader of Crawley council 

The council’s temporary accommodation costs have risen from £456,000 in 2018/19 to £5.7 million in the current financial year. This represents a 12-fold increase. The figure now accounts for one pound in every three of the council’s budget.

On the impact of temporary accommodation costs, council leader Michael Jones said: “We are quickly approaching the point that this will unavoidably impact local council services for everyone.”

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He said that “the single easiest support would be for government to unfreeze the level at which housing benefit subsidy is set”.

He added that, five years ago, housing benefit subsidy covered 42% of the temporary accommodation costs, but now it only covers 25% of the cost. Last year, the net cost of temporary accommodation increased by £2m.

In a speech to the full council, Jones said that “the acceleration of the issue is what is so concerning”, adding that it was only likely to get worse.

The leader of the council and cabinet member for housing will now write to Michael Gove to request additional resources for councils and housing authorities like Crawley and to ask him to unfreeze the local housing allowance for councils, which is currently set at 2011 levels.

As part of the approved motion, Crawley council has outlined that it will also work with other authorities and the government to develop long-term solutions to address the national housing crisis. 

Councillor Atif Nawaz, deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and economic development, said another “hugely important reason why a housing emergency declaration is so necessary is the water neutrality restrictions which have been imposed on us as a result of the government’s failure to properly regulate the water industry”.

Nutrient neutrality was hindering or even completely blocking new development in Crawley, he said.

Nawaz added that Horsham District Council was “using water neutrality as a reason to justify the failure of the new local plan to continue to help meet unmet housing needs from Crawley”.

He pointed out that, between 2018 and 2021, the volume of new homes delivered in Crawley exceeded the government’s housing delivery target by over 400%. However, with the introduction of nutrient neutrality, “everything has slowed down”, leading Nawaz to conclude that the council was right to declare a housing emergency.