Rough sleepers currently staying in B&Bs could be re-housed in 40 temporary homes at a car park in the town centre.

The £2 million proposal at land next to Cattle Market Car Park, on Great Knollys Street, is part of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) response to the coronavirus pandemic and will be voted on by the council on Monday (August 3).

More than 160 rough sleepers – or those at risk of rough sleeping – in Reading have been placed in emergency accommodation since the government asked councils to accommodate all rough sleepers by the end of March.

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The council now wants to place a third of these people in temporary pods at the car park, which could be built by October this year.

Where are the rough sleepers currently?

So far, 54 people have been moved out of B&Bs into alternative accommodation, through working with voluntary sector partners and private sector landlords.

But there are still 106 people in emergency accommodation.

While RBC does not have any statutory obligation to house these people under homelessness legislation, the council is expected to support and accommodate them and says it is not financially sustainable to keep them in B&Bs.

Approximately 39 of the 106 people in B&Bs have no recourse to public finds.

The council says options for this group are limited, and it is working with local partners and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to find a sustainable accommodation offer for this group.

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This would include returning them to an area where they have a connection, where desired, and supporting individuals to get settled status to allow them to be eligible for public funds.

For the other 67 rough sleepers, RBC is working closely with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England to look at sustainable support and accommodation options.

It says the 40 temporary pods at Cattle Market Car Park, which would have 24-hour support on site, will meet the needs of a large majority of this group.

Why Cattle Market?

RBC says the Cattle Market Car Park site is the only suitable site for the accommodation.

The pods would be built in an area where a new car park development is planned.

The rest of the carpark will be upgraded and resurfaced and, when the temporary housing pods are removed, the remainder of the carpark would be developed on.

Using the land to provide 40 units of modular temporary accommodation would reduce the council’s spend on emergency accommodation by £80k per month, saving it £960,000 per year.

Alternatively, the council says it could choose to provide 20 of the properties for residents with no recourse to public funds, and therefore no ability to pay rent, and the scheme would still break even.

When could the homes be built by and who is paying for them?

The council would initially not need planning permission for the homes, as coronavirus legislation enables local authorities to carry out temporary developments on their own land in relation to the coronavirus emergency, without obtaining planning approval.

Formal permission would be required by December 31, 2020.

RBC believes the temporary modular pods, which are built off site to allow for swift build times, could be ready by October this year, if approved next week.

It would be funded by a mix of external subsidies and Housing Revenue Account borrowing.

Grant funding from Homes England could cover 40 per cent of the  costs but the council will have to bid.

If the bid is not successful, 30 per cent of the scheme cost could be funded through right to buy receipts.