Councillors vote to buy homes for families in need

A Cornwall Housing van outside a houseImage source, Cornwall Council
Image caption,

The homes will be a combination of new builds, and some up to 10 years old in major towns

  • Published

Cornwall councillors have agreed the authority will buy 50 additional homes to house homeless families.

On Wednesday the Conservative cabinet voted to buy two and three-bed new houses, and some up to 10 years old, to use as temporary accommodation for Cornish residents without homes.

Earlier this year the council said there were about 800 families in Cornwall living in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, caravan parks and B&Bs.

The new homes would be bought in major towns with high need, councillors said.

'Reducing council's overspend'

Council leader Linda Taylor said at Thursday's meeting: “Two and three bedroom properties will be delivered by the end of 2025 at a cost of up to £17.2m, generating a net saving to the council of 74% by not putting families into emergency accommodation.”

She said the new homes would have a "significant positive and social impact" on families with children, those who had experienced the care system and people with mobility issues.

This would reduce the number of families housed in expensive, nightly-paid emergency accommodation and so "contribute to reducing the council’s overspend”, she added.

Councillors agreed the new homes would be bought in Truro, Newquay, Falmouth, Penzance, Camborne, Redruth, St Austell, Liskeard, Hayle, Helston and Bodmin.

'Growing housing crisis'

Labour councillor Kate Ewert told the BBC the housing problem stemmed from the government.

She said: “Due to the government’s lack of action over the growing housing crisis and Conservative Cornwall Council’s lack of planning, they are now having to buy housing from the open market as emergency and temporary accommodation for the over 800 families who need it.

"We need a focus on taxing and regulating second homes, helping first time buyers get on the housing ladder and building more social and council housing,” she added.

'Drop in the ocean'

Liberal Democrat councillor Leigh Frost said there had been a "catastrophic rise" in the number of families needing help, with about 800 families needing emergency housing each month.

He said: "This is in part due to an increase in no-fault evictions and the government’s refusal to push through the renters' reform bill, which now lies on the scrapheap due to the forthcoming general election."

He said although there were more than 13,000 second homes and 20,000 Airbnbs, there were regularly less than 300 houses available for long-term rent throughout Cornwall.

He welcomed a plan to provide "stable and secure" homes to families in need, but called it "a drop in the ocean" when adult social care and home-to-school transport also needed to be addressed.

A council survey earlier this year found about 30% of its homes do not meet the government’s decency standard largely due to the age of the properties, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Cornwall Council owns 10,300 homes across Cornwall.