Torbay’s homeless families facing ‘perfect storm’

Torvista Homes development of affordable homes at Tweenaway in Paignton (image courtesy: Torbay Council)

More than a thousand households call for help

More than a thousand Torbay households including working families are said to be caught in a ‘perfect storm’ of homelessness.

Demand for help from Torbay Council’s housing officers is soaring as the cost of living crisis bites and the number of people sleeping rough in the bay is rising.

Mortgage interest rises are also forcing many landlords to sell up.

Officers say increasing numbers of working families who in the past would never have had to ask for help are now finding themselves on the streets.

Competition for affordable homes for rent is intense. In the last year 1,100 households asked for help from the Torbay Council housing needs team, with demand 68 per cent up since 2019.

The Devon Home Choice website – set up for all of Devon’s councils to list  housing association and local authority homes that are available – currently has just two properties on offer in Torbay.

A leading property website shows just three rooms available in private rented houses in the area.

Housing needs team leader Lianne Hancock told a council spotlight committee meeting that the bay lacks both social housing and affordable private rented homes. Some families are spend a year in temporary accommodation.

“With high rents, we’ve got a perfect storm in Torbay,” she said. “Working people on an average income are struggling now to even get a viewing on properties because there is so much competition.

“And landlords are having to sell because they can’t afford their mortgages.”

She said people in temporary accommodation are having to move house an average of three times while permanent places are found for them.

“How can you keep children in education if you don’t know where you are going to be from one week to the next?” she asked.

The meeting heard that the monthly rent for a four-bedroom house in the bay was up to £1,600.

Council community director Tara Harris said the situation could get worse in the next couple of years as soaring mortgage interest rates lead to more homes being repossessed.

Cllr Swithin Long (Lib Dem, Barton with Watcombe) said the council had to do more to make sure developers provide affordable homes within local housing projects.

And he urged the council to lobby the government for improvements in allowances to help people get more help from the benefits system.

Around 35 people are rough-sleeping in Torbay, up from just half a dozen a decade ago. In Devon only Plymouth and Exeter have higher numbers.

Most are in Torquay, with Paignton and Brixham seeing lower rates of rough sleeping.

“It’s a phenomenally unhealthy state,” said Dave Parsons, the council’s strategic lead for community protection.

Radio Exe: Local News