Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Council proposes building 66 temporary homes in a cheaper London borough

Westminster’s plan for Poplar

Westminster Council is seeking to build temporary accommodation for its homeless families seven miles away in Tower Hamlets because of government welfare cuts.

The Conservative-led council is in talks with developer R55 to buy a plot of land called Devon Wharf in Poplar, east London.

The site, currently owned by Chilton Transport, has planning permission for 66 homes, including 50 for private sale, 10 for social rent and six for intermediate rent. The permission expires on 25 June, meaning building work would have to start by then.

Under the plan, Westminster would use the homes as temporary accommodation but a spokesperson for the council stressed the idea was still just a proposal.

The move is in response to local housing allowance caps, which have reduced the availability of private homes. The council currently has around 2,320 households in temporary accommodation, up from 610 in 2010.

Steve Stride, chief executive of 8,490-home association Poplar Harca, criticised the plan. ‘For Westminster Council to dump homeless families in an area where they have no ties, no support and no interest risks repeating hard-learned lessons from the past, especially residualisation of struggling households,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Westminster’s opposition Labour group has released figures showing the authority is spending £85,000 a week housing families in 10 west end hotels.

Council figures earlier this month showed the number of families in bed and breakfast accommodation for six weeks is likely to rise from 120 to 150 in coming months.

Jonathan Glanz, cabinet member for housing and property at Westminster, said: ‘The reality is that we are extremely challenged to find homes that fit within the benefit cap levels.’

The council is now accepting responsibility for around 60 new households a month, a doubling in recent months.

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