Homeless numbers grow in West Lothian

Growing numbers of people made homeless in the pandemic  have pushed the housing budget more than  £100,000 into an overspend by West Lothian Council.

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Costs have surged in the months since the Covid-19 lockdown began in late March, councillors heard in an update to the council’s Executive.

Homelessness is forecast to overspend by £146,000 as a result of the ongoing demand for temporary accommodation. On average 41 clients per night were accommodated in B&B from April to June 2020.

This number has been steadily rising since the start of 2020/21 and as of July 29 there were 102 people in B&B accommodation. The increase in demand for temporary accommodation has mainly been as a result of the Covid-19 situation, say housing officers.

The lockdown restrictions have meant that there has been less turnover in mainstream housing stock and changes in legislation have meant that there have been no evictions during lockdown. 

Access restrictions during the lockdown period also impacted void works and meant abandoned properties could not be identified, assessed and re-let, which has led to fewer options available to move people from temporary accommodation into more permanent solutions. 

A one-off budget of £550,000 is mitigating the pressure in B&B spend but pressures elsewhere in the budget i.e. furniture and void rent loss are main factors in the overspend. Homelessness transport costs have fallen as a result of school closures but there are risks of increased demand and/or increased contract costs now that schools  have resumed.