Re-housing tenants hundreds of miles from their home area can be damaging and it may also be illegal, says Nnenna Morah
Newham Council’s recent plans to re-house residents on its housing waiting list in Stoke-on-Trent were described by some as social cleansing.
Whatever the council’s position may be, it is not the first time we have seen such proposals. In February The Observer newspaper reported that Croydon Council was looking to rent private accommodation in Hull to house people waiting in temporary accommodation. It has also been reported that Waltham Forest Council has housed tenants in Luton and Margate.
If councils in London are already moving tenants to cheaper areas of the country, it is a fair conclusion that benefit reforms will exacerbate what is already a growing problem.
There are difficult choices ahead for both housing providers and tenants, but is relocation really the answer? Removing families from their homes, local communities, schools and employment can be extremely damaging, particularly for those with high support needs.
Furthermore, the tension between insufficient investment in affordable social housing and a local authority’s statutory duty to house is unpalatable. The result? The eviction of tenants unable to meet their rental shortfall following a cut in benefits and moving tenants hundreds of miles away from their home. One must not forget the human rights regime and the principle of the right to private and family life. Such actions could be tested under the Human Rights Act.
There is a clear conflict. It remains to be seen how long the conflict can exist without challenge.
Nnenna Morah is a senior solicitor at Harrison Grant Solicitors