A new housing strategy to improve living conditions for thousands of the most vulnerable in Cornwall has been roundly supported by Cornwall Council’s cabinet. 

The Cornwall Supported and Specialist Housing Strategy 2023-2050 will see thousands of new and improved specialist, supported and accessible homes created across the Duchy.

Cllr Andy Virr, the council’s portfolio holder for adults social care and health, admitted at a cabinet meeting last week that historically people have often been placed in the wrong accommodation by the local authority, which can create health issues. 

The new scheme, which was dubbed as “ambitious” by a number of councillors, will ensure this no longer happens.

The council, along with a number of partners including housing associations, will work to improve and increase living conditions for the elderly, homeless, people with mental and physical health needs, those with alcohol and drug problems, residents on probation and people affected by domestic abuse.

Cllr Virr said: “There are a number of ways to deliver it – shaping planning policy, using arrangements with Cornwall Housing to support modernisation, using surplus council sites and the wider public sector estate, and new contract arrangements.”

As the council faces financial challenges, including a £15m overspend in the current financial year, affordability to carry out the strategy is undoubtedly an issue.

“In the risk section of the report we have identified affordability to develop new build and upgrading existing stock as one of the biggest challenges to the delivery of the need in the strategy,” added Cllr Virr. 

“It will require us to work closely with stakeholders. These affordability challenges don’t change the level of need nor does it change our legal duties.”

The councillor, who said he fully backed the importance of the strategy to improve the lives of vulnerable people in Cornwall, said: “One of the historical challenges we’ve had as a county, both in the health and adult social care sectors, is that we’ve not had the right accommodation and it’s often meant we’ve put people in the wrong accommodation, like care homes when actually they could be in supported accommodation or with reablement they could be on their own again. When we do that it’s better for the individual.

“Sadly they will have a shorter life expectancy away from their family and their community, and it’s expensive for the system.” 

He said the project would have a positive impact on many other areas of the council, including planning, housing, children and families, neighbourhoods and adult social care and health.

Council chair Cllr Pauline Giles added: “This is like a breath of fresh air as far as I’m concerned. I’m really excited about where we can go with this. By being smart and building the right accommodation to support those in need it will also free up a lot of the current housing stock for families in temporary accommodation and I’m hopeful of that. 

“Let’s hope we can be an exemplar for other councils to do the same.”