HELP is to be offered to people who are in debt and unable to get on the housing register.
Chichester District Council’s cabinet has agreed to adopt the Homeless Prevention Fund policy and make £43,000 available.
The Mortgage Rescue Scheme reserve fund was renamed the Homelessness Prevention Fund three years ago
This was to help the council deal with the district’s homelessness problem as a result of welfare reforms.
The budget was reduced to £50,000 and £43,000 remains in the fund.
Cabinet members were told how the council accommodated families with significant housing-related debt, who were not eligible to go on the housing register.
Households cannot apply to join the housing register until they have been in a repayment plan for six months or the debt is cleared.
This can lead to homeless households spending longer in temporary accommodation as they have fewer housing options.
This, in turn, reduces turnover and availability of temporary accommodation which may result in households being accommodated in bed and breakfast accommodation.
Cllr Jane Kilby, cabinet member for housing services, said: “This recommendation is to grant applications of up to £3,000 of funding. In exceptional circumstances this could be increased.
“The funding will be paid direct to the household creditors.”
“Occupants will have a full, financial assessment prior to any grant being approved.
“They will have to show they are managing their finances and budgeting for a length of time.
“Funding is limited and will not assist all but for those households who meet the criteria, it will enable them to apply and obtain permanent housing and release temporary accommodation for other homeless families.”
Cllr Eileen Lintill was concerned this may mean those who benefited from the funding may jump the queue.
She said: “I do support this but I would just like confirmation that if we help somebody, what this does is enable them to go on the list, but it doesn’t give them any preferential treatment once they are on the list.
“I absolutely agree we should help people. It must be horrendous if you get into debt and can’t see a way out of it and can’t get on the housing list, but on the other hand if I am on the housing list for an awfully ling time and I see somebody that hasn’t managed their funds very well being helped out like this and then queue jumping, I think I might be a little bit upset.”
Marie Grêlé, housing options manager at the council, confirmed this would not be the case.
She said: “The scheme doesn’t give any additional priority on the housing register at all. ”
Cllr John O’Connor also supported the recommendation.
He said: “I support this. I have come across cases in a different context where people are in debt, which was not through their own mismanagement or fault.
“I think it only right, if we are in a position to help these people to get them at least on the list, then I think we should do so.”
In January, district councillors agreed to demolish a property in Freeland Close which they bought in 2017, and agreed to replace it with up to 21 flats for short term accommodation.
Peter Sutton, Christians Against Poverty’s local CAP Money course leader, said: “We welcome initiatives by Chichester District Council to alleviate the burden of debt from local people, especially when they have been struggling to get affordable housing due to debt issues.
“It will depend on the details of the scheme as to how effective this is but the fact that the council is taking steps to help where it can is very important.”
Christians Against Poverty offers free debt counselling for people with unmanageable debt in addition to offering free CAP Money courses which help empower people as they learn essential budgeting skills.
For more information telephone: 0800 328 0006 (freephone number) or visit: capuk.org/gethelp