Cambridgeshire

Homelessness strategy unveiled in east Cambridgeshire

A new strategy to deal with homelessness has been drawn up by a Cambridgeshire council after figures showed a large increase in the number of people seeking housing help.

East Cambridgeshire District Council has seen the numbers seeking advice on homelessness rise from 519 people in 2009/2010 to 837 in 2010/2011.

The council is employing a new housing advisor to help those in urgent need.

It also aims to work more with public, private and voluntary groups.

A report from the Ely-based Conservative-controlled council said that the end of 2011/start of 2012 saw five times the use of bed and breakfast accommodation to house homeless families compared to the previous year.

'Real challenges'

Bed and breakfast accommodation is used by the council to house urgent cases, when other rented accommodation is not easily available.

"The financial implications and risks to the council of failing to take action are serious... The costs to the council of extensive bed and breakfast use would be prohibitive," said the report.

As well as a new housing advisor, the council aims to continue to work closely with Sanctuary Housing association and provide better education about the role of housing services and the help available through roadshows and events.

The council also plans to encourage the local construction industry to build more affordable homes through making greater funds available through the government's Housing Growth Fund - which helps fund roads and other infrastructure for new developments.

James Palmer, deputy leader of the council, said the housing team "faces real challenges over the next couple of years as we predict the number of people coming to us for help will grow as financial hardships bite".

He added: "What has been pleasing in East Cambridgeshire is how we have all worked together to tackle this issue across the political divide and with the private and voluntary sector."

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