Kettering Council is in talks to buy and re-open a boarded-up hostel in the town centre in a bid to try to ease its growing homelessness crisis.
The authority is currently being hit by a wave of homelessness with 27 new approaches from households at threat of losing their home each week.
The town’s hostel Wellington House closed in March and now the council is in talks with the owner Home Group to try to take over the building and use it once again to put a roof over people’s heads.
The Conservative-run authority, which is using 150 homes from its own housing stock to put up families in temporary accommodation, is predicting it will spend £950,000 this financial year on temporary accommodation.
A report before the council’s executive committee next Wednesday (Sept 18) outlines what the council’s officers have been doing to try and increase housing supply.
It says: “Wellington House is currently boarded up while Home Group undertake an option appraisal in order to identify a viable future use for the building. Officers are liaising closely with Home Group to ensure that the premises continue to be used to meet local housing needs. With that in mind, we have indicated that our preferred solution would be for Home Group to sell the building to the council so that it can be put back into use and continue to provide accommodation and support for the most vulnerable people in our community. If this does not prove possible, then the committee may be of the view that replacement provision needs to be found and that officers should draw up some alternatives for consideration by the committee in 2020.”
Wellington House was first opened in 2002 and was run by the YMCA but closed in 2011 after funding by Northamptonshire County Council was withdrawn. It was re-opened in 2015 by the Home Group as a homeless hostel. It has five self contained flats and 16 rooms and was used as a night shelter last winter. But in December last year Home Group gave notice on the contract.
There are currently 234 families in temporary accommodation in Kettering and at a recent meeting leader of the Labour opposition said the issue should be the ‘number one strategic priority for the council’.
Kettering has a much larger number of households in temporary accommodation than neighbouring local authority Corby, which is currently housing 22 households. Kettering’s head of housing said the issue had been due to a local issue with private rental sector and a sharp increase in rents.
Independent Cllr Jim Hakewill said the situation was shocking but his suggestion to have a special meeting on the issue was voted against by the Conservative councillors.