A REVIEW of the way houses are allocated to homeless people in East Renfrewshire is taking place, as demand remains “consistently high.”

Changes to the council’s letting policy were made under emergency powers during the Covid pandemic to increase the percentage of properties available to those without a home.

But the need for housing is growing, with the number of people presenting as homeless rising year on year – from 308 in 2018/19 to 378 in 2021/22.

Over the past two years, the number of homeless people waiting for an offer of accommodation has “remained steadily above 100 households at any one time,” a report by council officials states.

This has increased pressure on the supply of temporary properties for people waiting for homes, with a “significant amount” of Bed and Breakfast accommodation being used.

Consultation will be held over the summer before the review’s findings and any policy changes are presented to councillors later this year.

Council services were disrupted in March 2020 when lockdown was announced, with homeless people unable to move from temporary accommodation to permanent homes between March and July that year.

Officials reported the disruption has caused “a considerable backlog of homeless applicants waiting for housing” which was exacerbated when social distancing rules “reduced the productivity of the workforce once repair work was permitted.”

In an attempt to address the backlog, the council increased the percentage of lets to homeless hostels during 2020/21 but demand has remained high.

Former council leader Tony Buchanan and Councillor Danny Devlin, housing convener, then approved a six-month change to the letting policy under emergency powers in April this year.

They lifted the percentage of new-build council homes allocated to homeless people from the existing target of 25% to up to 40% and increased the percentage of existing council homes given to homeless people from a target of 55% to 70%.

These changes will run until October 5 and it is hoped they will ease demand.

As well as the increase in homeless presentations, the general waiting list for homes has risen from around 2,800 in 2018/19 to over 4,000 at the end of 2021/22.

The report states that East Renfrewshire Council has around 250 to 300 empty homes available to let each year, while housing associations have a “legal duty to assist with the housing of homeless households.”

Barrhead Housing Association provides up to 40% of its empty properties to homeless people, the report adds, while 25% of all council new-build social housing are allocated.

The demand has also placed “significant pressure” on the supply of temporary accommodation. Before 2020, around 60 properties – mainly council owned but some from the private sector – were used and supplemented by “the small use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation when required.”

Now the council has a supply of more than 100 properties and is using “a significant amount” of B&B accommodation, which is “contrary to best practice.”

The consultation process will include talks with existing tenants, those on the housing waiting list, tenants’ organisations and East Renfrewshire’s health and social care partnership.