A LONG-SERVING South Ayrshire councillor has voiced concern after a report revealed that more than half of the council houses let in the area are being given to homeless households.

Councillor Alec Clark said "loyal tenants" were missing out because of the legal obligation to provide accommodation to people presenting as homeless.

According to the report, 414 of the 778 South Ayrshire council houses let in 2022/23 were given to homeless households.

The council has a’ legal obligation to support those presenting as homeless including provision of temporary housing where it is needed.

Councillor Clark said there needed to be ‘due diligence’ to prevent new tenants causing problems in communities.

In a report to South Ayrshire Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, the service lead for housing,  Michael Alexander, said: “There continues to be sustained pressure on available temporary accommodation.

“To ensure that the council fulfils its duty to accommodate people who are homeless, since October 2022 to date, there has been an ongoing regular reliance on the use of hotel accommodation for short term periods, until other accommodation options become available within the council’s pool of temporary accommodation.

“In the 2022/23 reporting year, 874 homeless applications were made to the council and 414 (53.2 per cent) of the overall 778 lets were made to homeless households."

In the first three month of the current financial year 2023/24, there have been 257 homeless applications to the council, with the homeless service dealing with 466 open cases as of June.

During that time 96 of the 205 houses let were made to homeless households – just under 47 per cent.

Councillor Clark said: ” I notice in 2022/23 report 874 homeless  applications were made to council and 53.2 per cent of the lets made to homeless households. Which is fine, we have got to follow legislation and deal with that. 

“We are in the position where loyal tenants have spent years trying to move into other accommodation – maybe a flat, maybe a house. But they have been held back as a homeless person has been given it first.

“To me, the common sense view would be to let the person move into the house, and then let the homeless person move into the property that has been left by someone who wants to move.

“I don’t know if that’s a possibility. We would still be carrying out the legislation, but it would also give our loyal tenants the chance to perhaps improve their quality of life.”

Mr Alexander said that there was a system in place that looked at three different lists - one for people presenting as homeless, one general waiting list, and one for transfers, Officers would assess which has the greatest housing need.

He said: “When vacancy does arise, the officer will look at the applicant at the top of the housing waiting list, the top of the transfer list and top of the homeless list, and make a decision, based on a number of factors, about who has the greatest need at that particular time.

“If we can free up larger property to meet the needs of a larger family, we would look to the transfer list and move them to a house of a more appropriate size.

“There is an element of flexibility within the selection process and we would take that into account to try and make best use of the council’s available housing stock. ”

Councillor Clark also asked whether there was ‘due diligence’ carried out when allocating a house to a homeless applicant.

He said that councillors came across situations where there was "absolute mayhem" in housing developments caused by tenants moving in and making life "pretty miserable".

Mr Alexander responded: “As part of the process, there are very few incidences where council would not expect to provide a housing solution.

“We would look at what might be the best fit, taking into account the impact on the community. 

"This could involve levering in support for vulnerable households.”