The cost of emergency and temporary accommodation has soared in five years as the number of homeless people in Brighton and Hove has gone up.
The Green Party has criticised the council for paying private landlords more than five times as much for short-term places as it did five years ago.
Councillor David Gibson, who speaks for the party on housing, said that the rising cost was “shocking” and the service should be brought in-house.
Brighton and Hove City Council pays millions of pounds to private landlords, some of it under long-term contracts aimed at containing costs.
But Councillor Gibson obtained the figures for the spot purchase of short-term temporary accommodation over five years.
The figures showed that – once housing benefit money was taken out of the equation – the cost to the council had gone up from £516,000 in 2013-14 to £2.77 million in 2017-18.
In the most recent financial year, to the end of March, the bill was more than £800,000 higher than the £1.94 million figure for the previous year.
The Greens said: “With costs of such accommodation continuing to rise, Greens want to see public money used to provide services to those at risk of rough sleeping, rather than given to private companies.
“A set of proposals put forward by the Greens in December 2017 called for an investigation into the savings that could be achieved through council ownership of short-term accommodation. Despite being backed by all parties, the Labour council has yet to deliver a report on the matter.
“With costs to the council escalating, Greens are calling for urgent action and have criticised the Labour council for failing to back Green budget proposals that would have made funds available to buy suitable accommodation.”
Councillor Gibson said: “It is shocking that privately provided short-term emergency accommodation costs £2.77 million.
“Instead of publicly subsidised rents going to private landlords, it’s a no brainer that the council should provide its own emergency and temporary accommodation, which could be done at a much lower cost to the public purse.
“With resources tight, we are calling for our proposals to use cheap borrowing to buy buildings to be properly explored.
“We called for this to be investigated back in December. Now the costs are escalating, it is more urgent than ever and the Labour council needs to get a move on and look at the options for council-run short-term accommodation.
“Other councils that have started doing this have already reported huge savings – but crucially also a better service.”
He said that the council could also provide a better service to homeless people through delivering its own emergency accommodation.
he added that private landlords were currently under no obligation to provide support services to vulnerable tenants in emergency accommodation.
Labour said: “Everyone is aware of the high cost of providing emergency and temporary accommodation for people in urgent housing need, especially in a city like Brighton and Hove.
“Unfortunately, due to the national housing crisis and Conservative austerity policies, costs have continued to rise.
“However, the Green Party will know that as a Labour council we are already delivering new council-owned temporary accommodation for those in housing need – with 10 new homes completed at Stonehurst Court and 12 new homes planned at Oxford Street.
“Stonehurst Court is now occupied and, alongside giving families new high-quality accommodation, we are making savings which will continue as we move forward with schemes like these.
“Another scheme for 15 more temporary accommodation units is also planned and we intend to carry on working hard to provide more council-owned temporary and emergency accommodation.
“So we agree with Councillor Gibson that the cost of emergency and temporary accommodation for residents is a valid concern but what really matters is the delivery of new council-owned units, which is taking place, alongside our work to try to reduce the number of households that reach a housing crisis.
“We would welcome Councillor Gibson acknowledging that as a Labour council we have been more focused on delivering new council-owned temporary accommodation than when his party led the council.”
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