New housing and homelessness strategy

By Sarah Edwards

Oxford City Council’s Executive Board has recommended that the council adopts the new Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2018-2021, following six weeks of public consultation.

The new strategy sets out key priorities to focus delivery of housing and homelessness services over the next three years. It highlights the council’s commitment to delivering new genuinely affordable housing for local people, bringing empty properties back into use – building on its success in cutting long-term empty homes by nearly two-thirds – and working collaboratively with Oxfordshire districts, statutory agencies and other partners to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping across the city.

The draft strategy that went out for public consultation explained the council’s commitment to “preventing and ending rough sleeping”, and this led to a joint commitment at last November’s City Conversation that “no-one should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford”.

The Executive Board resolved to amend the document to make that commitment even clearer, as well as the council’s commitment to working with partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors and homeless people themselves to achieve that goal.

Full council will vote on the strategy on 29 January.

Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “The Housing and Homelessness Strategy sets out our ambitious plans for meeting housing need, preventing homelessness and meeting the needs of vulnerable people in the next three years.

“As part of this, we want to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford. We have already initiated a City Conversation on rough sleeping, and we will be working with our partners, people and organisations with an interest in ending street homelessness to help achieve this vision.

“It will be a tough ask. Oxford is lucky to have a range of fantastic services dedicated to getting rough sleepers off the streets, and a caring and tolerant population which wants to help homeless people. All this support will be needed to help us to end rough sleeping in Oxford.

“But others also need to do more. One in five of the people sleeping on our streets come from other parts of Oxfordshire, and a further third from outside the county altogether. From April, the Homelessness Reduction Act will put stronger obligations on councils to support and accommodate all people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and the government must ensure that all councils fulfil these duties.

“I am proud that Oxford City Council has been recognised as a Gold Standard authority for homelessness prevention by the National Practitioner Support Service, and the strategy also sets out how we intend to build on that achievement.”