What we do to tackle homelessness

How we help homeless families

In 2015, we partnered with Resonance Real Lettings property fund, with both organisations contributing £5m to purchase houses in or near Oxford for local families that would otherwise be homeless. The partnership includes homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway, which manages the properties, provides support services and arranges moves on to sustainable accommodation. In 2016, we contributed a further £10m for temporary accommodation purchase, and we are committing a further £5m in 2018/19.

As part of this programme, we are using compulsory purchase powers to buy empty Oxford homes for otherwise homeless Oxford families. We are currently compulsorily purchasing a property in Rose Hill, which has stood empty since 1989, for this purpose.

However, our work to prevent Oxford families from becoming homeless goes far beyond just buying houses, and includes:

  • a £50,000 emergency fund to help new Universal Credit claimants. New claimants have to wait at least five weeks before they get their first full payment of Universal Credit and the fund aims to help with their utilities, food and essential living costs during that wait
  • supporting households affected by the benefit cap, bedroom tax and other cuts to their housing benefit with discretionary housing payments (DHPs). In 2017/18, we have a £509,495 DHP grant from the Department for Work and Pensions, which we use to top up rent shortfalls while customers work with our Welfare Reform Team to improve their financial circumstances and sustain their tenancies
  • a pilot Rent Guarantee Scheme, helping families threatened with homelessness into private tenancies by offering guaranteed rent and tenancy management support to landlords while we work with their tenants to improve their financial situation
  • as part of the City Council’s £1.4m annual grants programme, giving £518,379 in 2016/17 to organisations that provide advice and money-management support, including £200,000 to Oxford Citizens Advice Bureau, £85,290 to the Agnes Smith Advice Centre, and £122,611 to Oxford Community Work Agency
  • as part of the same annual grants programme, in 2016/17 giving £35,082 to A2 Dominion to support those experiencing domestic abuse, £15,000 to Oxford Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre, and £1,000 to Reducing the Risk of Domestic Abuse
  • retaining more than 7,800 council houses to provide affordable homes to Oxford families, and building and purchasing hundreds of new council houses across Oxford, including 354 as part of the Barton Park housing development.

In 2004, the number of otherwise homeless Oxford families in temporary accommodation (i.e. hotels or B&Bs) stood at 1,000. But, thanks to all this work, the number in August 2017 was just 87 – down from 96 in March 2017. This stands in sharp contrast to the national trend, which has seen a 60% increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation since March 2011.

In 2016/17, we and our partners prevented 1,107 households from becoming homeless. And we have now almost abandoned the use of hotels and B&Bs to house otherwise homeless Oxford families. Of the 96 households in temporary accommodation in March 2017, none were in hotels or B&Bs.

But the pressure on families in Oxford is increasing. More than 100 households every month are now approaching us as homeless and requesting assistance.