Homelessness is on the increase

THE amount of people who are homeless or sleeping rough could be set to increase sharply as swingeing benefit cuts begin to bite, Boston Borough Council has been warned.

This area is already classed as a Lincolnshire ‘hotspot’ for homelessness, and with upcoming welfare changes and the continuing economic downturn, more and more people could be pushed out of their homes, councillors feared last week.

At a meeting discussing Lincolnshire’s Homelessness Strategy on Thursday officers at the authority admitted changes to welfare were an increasing problem, and they had ‘huge concerns’ about the effect they would have on people of low income in the area.

John Cooch, principal housing officer for the council, said: “Welfare reform is a huge agenda. There are huge concerns over some households and how they will cope and what will happen to them.”

At the meeting of the corporate and community scrutiny committee, Coun Paul Goodale implored the council to make sure these issues were covered in the strategy, which aims to deal with the issues which lead to homelessness and help those who have lost their homes.

The Labour councillor said: “Where is the contingency within this for when these benefits are capped?

“We are the most expensive place to rent in the East Midlands, but we certainly don’t have the highest wages. When the benefit caps come in and people can’t afford their rent, we are not going to be in a position to top it up. Surely it’s going to impact when you look at homelessness.”

The strategy states changes to local housing allowance will mean benefit claimants will only be able to afford one in three rented properties, putting more pressure on stock.

Coun Brain Rush added it was ‘almost inevitable’ that the number of people losing their homes would increase due to low wages, high unemployment and the economic situation.

The comments come as homeless charity Shelter revealed that Boston is among the areas with the second highest rate of housing repossessions in the whole of the UK.