HOMELESSNESS has reduced in York but the city's housing crisis is intensifying for many, a new report has warned.
The annual Homelessness Review by City of York Council says there have been a number of heartening success stories, but says less well-off residents are finding it increasingly difficult to rent accommodation in the city.
York's large student population and strong economy have created high demand that is increasingly squeezing out those who are less well off and the issue has been heightened by a drop in the number of landlords using City of York Council's socially-responsible letting scheme, YorHome, the report warns.
Becky Ward, the council's homelessness manager, says in the report: "Accessing the private rented sector for vulnerable and less well-off customers is becoming increasingly difficult, despite a concerted effort to work with landlords."
She put the problem down to the level of Local Housing Allowance, and York's "vibrant student and labour market", which meant landlords had constant demand.
In 2012/13, York had 85 YorHome properties but that has fallen to 74, well short of the long-term 2014 target of 125 homes.
YorHome allows landlords to let their property "through an ethical, non profit making, socially responsible lettings agency" but Ms Ward said landlords had been selling up and council staffing problems had prevented the addition of new properties. A business plan has now been compiled to try to drive expansion.
The annual report says homelessness in York fell by 25.5 per cent in 2013/14, from 146 to 109, compared to a national drop of 2.3 per cent, and the city beat its target for reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation, but the number of rough sleepers rose from eight to nine and the 'homeless prevention' count of the number of people protected from becoming homeless fell from 746 to 683.
Ms Ward said reducing the overall number of homeless people to 109 was an "exceptional achievement" given the economic climate, and praised staff for their work.
She also said staff had done well to reduce rent arrears at the Peashome Centre and Howe Hill hostel, at a time when they were expected to rise, and said the council had done well to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation to 79, against a target of 90. Bed and Breakfast accommodation for displaced households cost the council £103,000 last year, up from £96,000 the year before but down from £121,000 in 2011/12.
Nightstop and the Young Persons Homeless Workers saw more people in 2013/14 and the Older Persons Housing Specialist has improved services for older people.
Ms Ward warned: "There is a continued risk that due to the current economic climate and national agenda that homelessness will increase significantly." She said the threat would only be averted by continued hard work and investment.