A STAGGERING £2.6million has been spent on housing vulnerable residents in temporary accommodation in Southend since 2017, including placing families in empty flats in Queensway tower blocks.

At a full council meeting, David Garston, cabinet member for housing, revealed almost £500,000 a year is being spent on temporary accommodation for people facing homelessness.

He also revealed that 22 empty flats at the Queensway tower blocks are being used as temporary accommodation while the regeneration project for the estate hangs in the balance.

Tony Cox, Southend Tory council leader, highlighted the cost of living crisis and a shortage of available homes in Southend as part of the reason why so many people are in need of temporary accommodation.

He said: “We have a high waiting list, we need properties, and we know the predicaments we are in, with that, it seems the most logical thing to put those apartments to use.

“The demand is nothing new, the cost of living hasn’t just caused a sudden spike, it has been an issue for some time, and I think one of the bigger issues is the closeness to London because it is driving a lot of boroughs prices up and taking up precious homes.

“I think people are not necessarily living as couples, there are generally more people in these situations who need temporary housing for a variety of reasons, we are also quite landlocked as it is unless you want to hit the greenbelt and we just don’t have the availability.”

The Queensway Estate regeneration project is due to be demolished and replaced with 1,700 new homes as part of a £500 million regeneration scheme.

However, its future hands in the balance after Swan Housing, which was due to manage the overhaul, collapsed. Roughly 50 homes across the four tower blocks remain unoccupied.

The use of some of some of the homes as temporary housing has helped the council’s spend on temporary accommodation fall slightly, however it still remains at almost half-a-million a year.

Spending on temporary accommodation between 2017 to 2018 was £490,451 but spending in 2022-2023 falling to £465,892, with the total spend between 2017 and 2023 being over £2.6 million.