Sharp rise in number of homeless families

AROUND 20 to 25 Crawley families a month are being forced into emergency bed and breakfast accommodation after being made homeless.

This compares with early 2010 when no families were in emergency B&B accommodation.

Crawley Borough Council spent at least £175,000 at two guesthouses in the last year housing homeless families.

Details of the expenditure are included in the council’s register of payments over £500 on its website.

The majority of stays were at the Grade II listed Gatwick Cambridge Hotel costing between £45 to £55 per night.

The council said there was cheaper accommodation available but the standards were not suitable for vulnerable families.

A spokesman said: “The council always tries to get the best value for money, but there is a shortage of emergency accommodation available and the statutory duty to accommodate families under homelessness legislation is not avoidable due to cost.

“There are other cheaper establishments providing this service, but they are not ones that the authority would place vulnerable households in due to the accommodation standards and level of services provided.”

Earlier this year the Oberserver revealed how Crawley Borough Council had received more than 700 homeless applications in the last two years.

Meanwhile nearly 250 high-priority families were on the housing register, a council review into housing allocations found in February 2012.

The difficult economic climate was blamed by the council.

The Government has proposed to relax planning regulations to boost house building and kick-start the economy.

But Crawley Labour leader Peter Lamb says this will make it easier for developers to get around obligations to build affordable housing.

He said to meet current demands 600 houses would need to built every year until 2029.

Cllr Lamb (Lab, Northgate) said: “I’m in favour of building more houses, the problem is all you’re doing by making the planning system easier is helping developers make more money, not what’s best for the area.

“We’ve got a housing crisis and what we really need is affordable housing. A real concern is that we just don’t have enough space and neighbouring authorities just aren’t interested in taking on Crawley houses.”