Shelter praises council

SCOTTISH Borders Council has been praised after homelessness applications in the region fell by over a third, writes Kenny Paterson and Mark Entwistle.

However, Shelter Scotland has also warned the local authority that evidence is needed to show how it aims to help people find a home in the long term.

Local homelessness applications fell by 37 per cent from 2010/11 to 2011/12, the fourth largest drop out of Scotland’s 32 councils, following last year’s introduction of a new homeless prevention service.

Shelter’s Graeme Brown said SBC deserves praise for being one of the first local authorities to meet the 2012 commitment on homelessness and ensuring every unintentionally-homeless person has the right to a home.

But he added: “Coming over a relatively short period of time, this big reduction indicates a major shift in policies and procedures within the council.

“Changes on this scale must be matched with evidence to show how the lives of people in need of a home have been improved for the long term.”

Cathy Fancy, SBC’s group manager for housing strategy and services, added: “We will continue to work together with those individuals facing a housing crisis to enable them to secure the most appropriate, affordable and sustainable housing solution to meet their needs to enable them to live independently in the community.”

Also this week, SBC executive members discussed the new strategy aimed at dealing with the growing number of empty houses in the region.

Currently, almost 1,200 private dwellings in the Borders are classed as long-term empty – double the national average.

The areas with the highest levels are Galashiels and Hawick, which also equate to areas of high unmet housing need.

Councillors approved the Empty Homes Draft Strategy and associated action plan, which now goes out to consultation.