HOMELESS residents could be placed in temporary homes outside of their area as a way to combat a limited supply of accommodation.

Braintree Council has adopted a new accommodation placement policy in order to offer additional explanation as to why homeless households are sometimes moved outside of the locality.

Introduced by cabinet member for housing, health and wellbeing, Lynette Bowers-Flint, the policy outlines the required criteria for providing homeless households with appropriate temporary or interim accommodation.

At the time of the meeting being held, Chelmsford Council was the only Essex authority with a policy of this kind in place.

In the report presented to the cabinet, it was noted that Braintree Council has a “limited supply of temporary and interim accommodation and, during times of increased homelessness pressures, may have to source additional accommodation outside the district”.

It was advised local authorities may also re-house ‘high priority’ candidates in the district through deals within the private rented sector.

These include families with dependent children and 16 or 17-year-old single applicants who wherever possible will be allocated a space within a supported living facility via the Essex Young People’s Partnership.

However, there is a widening gap between local market rent prices and local housing allowance (LHA) rates, meaning that the only financially viable and suitable accomodation options may have to be sourced outside of the area.

In Braintree, the estimated shortfall between LHA rates and the rent charged for one-bed properties or rooms in homes of multiple occupation is approximately £200.

This is higher for larger families or homeless households who require additional bedrooms.

Ms Bowers-Flint’s report goes on to state that refusing to adopt the policy could mean that “the council will be at greater risk of challenge if a household is placed out of area as there will be no agreed clear and consistent approach to making such decisions”, and expensive legal challenges could be made against the council if their strategy is not made clear.

A summary of the policy’s implications is provided in the following clause: “The council has a finite number of properties available to it for use as temporary accommodation and this, together with factors including contract changes at Essex County Council and ongoing benefit reforms, means that for some households, accommodation in the district may be either unavailable and/or unaffordable.

"As a result, there may be an increasing need to use accommodation outside the district.”

If a household is placed in temporary accommodation outside of Braintree, the receiving authority will be notified by Braintree Council.