Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus

 

We're planning to step up the battle against homelessness – by helping people afford privately-rented homes. 

We're considering more financial help for people who struggle to get a privately-rented property – because they can't come up with rent and a deposit in advance, or because they don't meet the landlord's income or credit requirements. 

There could also be more help for people who have problems finding a guarantor – someone willing to be liable for unpaid rent or other costs. 

Cllr Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing, will consider proposals on these issues at a meeting on 27 January. 

About 16,000 households live in privately-rented properties in the city, not counting university students. About 5,900 get help with their rent from housing benefit or universal credit. 

We already give financial help to people who qualify under two schemes. One provides grants or interest-free loans to people who are judged to be homeless or at risk of homelessness, to cover rent in advance and deposits. The other is aimed at people who need more suitable housing, and who are on housing benefits. They can get rent in advance or deposits covered. 

One proposal to be considered by Cllr Sanders is to expand the help available for people struggling with upfront payments. The council would work with a community bank on a pilot scheme for loans to people in housing need. These could be at low interest rates or even interest-free. 

Another proposal is to expand the use of council 'bonds'. This is where the council gives a landlord a guarantee that it will cover rent arrears, damage or theft, up to a certain level – such as four months' rent.

Leaving a property because of rent arrears is one of the main reasons why people in Portsmouth become homeless.

Cllr Sanders said: "The financial barriers to private renting are really serious in Portsmouth, and we have bold ideas for tackling them. It's so important that we help people, especially families, who struggle to rent a home. This will help us combat homelessness and will make it easier and safer for people to rent privately." 

At the meeting Cllr Sanders will also consider a proposed policy on temporary accommodation for people who are homeless. The policy would set out how the council allocates accommodation, its priorities, and how it ensures fairness. 

This will make the council's role clearer for people who find themselves in this position, at a time when demand is increasing. 

Cllr Sanders said: "The council is already doing a lot to tackle homelessness in our city, whether through building, buying or converting its own property. 

"This policy will help people see exactly what the criteria are when we decide to allocate temporary accommodation. It will make the process more transparent and is yet another sign that the council takes tackling homelessness seriously."