The 13 self-contained flats for families, and studios for single people, have been bought by East Herts Council to support those who find themselves homeless due to losing employment, a relationship breakdown or their landlord needing their property back.
Until now the council has only been able to house people in flats near Bishop’s Stortford and if they’re full, the council reluctantly has to place homeless households in bed-and-breakfast hotels typically outside of the district.
New mother Lorraine and her partner found themselves homeless this summer when their landlord wanted their private rented flat back. Lorraine, who had given birth to twins two months previously, said: “We’re from the Ware area and my partner works in Hertford and Cheshunt so we wanted to stay that side of the district. We couldn’t find anything affordable and we found ourselves in the temporary accommodation near Stortford. It is much nicer than I expected but it’s a lot more petrol costs and mileage on the clock for my partner to get to work. And we’re much further away from our support network, especially our mums.
“If this new accommodation had been available, it would have been a great help.”
The new flats have good bus and rail links to make getting around Hertford, Ware and the surrounding villages easy meaning that when families from this part of the district move in, they can keep their children in their existing schools and social support can be more easily maintained.
The cost of buying and running the flats will be covered by the rents charged while there will be a saving of more than £100,000 a year from reducing the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Support officers will be based at the new block of flats, helping people on the next step to finding more long-term accommodation.
Peter Boylan, executive member for housing, said: “Helping people to keep the support of their existing social networks, whether schools, their doctor’s surgery, family, friends or their workplace is so important when someone’s having to deal with homelessness. In turn, this helps people to get back on their feet and find a more settled and better future.
“The challenging economic climate and high local house prices mean that numbers of local people turning to the council in an emergency are increasing. Providing good quality temporary accommodation within the district for the four to five months it takes the council to arrange longer term accommodation is a vital way the council can help local residents at a time of stress.
“We’re delighted that we’re able to offer this accommodation on the Hertford and Ware side of our district now.”
The council has also received £421,000 of government funding for six flats which will serve as temporary accommodation for local people who have been sleeping rough. The funding will also enable the council to recruit a specialist who will help former rough sleepers find their footing back into society.