London councils seek 150 homes outside London
Four south London councils are in talks to lease 150 properties outside London to temporarily house homeless families because of rising private rents in the capital.
Faced with a shortage of council-owned properties and high rents demanded by private landlords, Croydon Council announced this week it is in discussion with Richmond, Kingston and Sutton councils over jointly procuring homes outside the capital.
If the plans go ahead, Croydon Council, which recorded a 36 per cent increase in homelessness over the last year, will be taking up the larger portion of the properties. The number of households in temporary accommodation in the borough had reached 429 at the end of May.
It has not yet been decided where the homeless families might be sent.
Councillor Dudley Mead, Croydon cabinet member for housing, finance and asset management, said: ‘Unfortunately, it’s an incontrovertible fact that we don’t have enough spare capacity in Croydon for the number of homeless people asking the council for help.
‘Obviously, we’d like to be able to offer everybody who comes to us exactly the accommodation, in the area of their choice, they ask for. Sadly, that isn’t possible, and this joint venture with other authorities offers homeless households somewhere to live on a temporary basis.’
The situation in Croydon is expected to worsen with the introduction of housing benefit caps in April next year, with a cap of £500 a week per family. This will leave a couple in Croydon with three children a maximum rent allowance of £176.18. The local housing allowance rent for a three-bedroom property is £253 per week – a weekly shortfall of £76.82.
Neighbouring Sutton currently has 258 households in temporary accommodation, 38 of which are placed outside the borough, with the furthest placement being in Hounslow, west London.
In Richmond, approximately 250 households are living in temporary accommodation, with 150 placed outside the borough. All placements are within eight miles of the borough except for one family currently based in Slough.
Responding to fears that councils may increasingly ship homeless families far away from their communities, housing minister Grant Shapps said: ‘The law prevents a blanket policy to send tenants to a different part of the country. And there is absolutely no need for it. We have provided £190 million to councils to help families in difficult situations and I want to be assured that they are making full use of this money. Where tenants have local connections to London, councils should be housing their tenants without moving them hundreds of miles away.’
A Richmond Council spokesman said: ‘Existing and planned changes to housing benefit legislation mean most London boroughs are looking at where they can find affordable rents for homeless residents.
‘We are absolutely not looking to buy properties out of the borough, they would be leased or an agreement would be made between the tenant and the landlord. This is pending guidance from the DCLG following their consultation. To date no firm decision has been made.’
Croydon Council will take further decisions on the proposals in a cabinet meeting to be held on Monday.