HOMELESS charity Shelter yesterday condemned the practice of ‘out-of (London)-borough placements’ as ‘unacceptable’.
This came as Labour-run Luton Borough Council, Bedfordshire, is considering legal action against Labour-run Waltham Forest Borough Council in north east London over the transfer of homeless families. Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb told the BBC: ‘Uprooting homeless families and sending them away from their jobs, schools and support networks should only ever be a last resort, but shockingly it’s now the norm in London.’
At least 20 London boroughs have moved families to places such as Luton, Basildon, Thurrock and Milton Keynes. Thurrock Council, Essex, has taken more homeless families than any other area outside London. At least 266 families are currently in the area, up from just 29 three years ago.
London boroughs are buying properties locally or paying Thurrock landlords to house their residents as tenants.
Thurrock Council leader John Kent said: ‘There is nothing we can do about either of these. But the first has the effect of reducing the number of homes available for local people to buy or rent and the second forces the cost of all local private rents through the roof.’
Luton housing chiefs say the ‘placements’ are putting a huge additional strain on the town’s resources. Luton already has more than 10,000 on its housing waiting list and has had to put more than a 100 families into bed and breakfast accommodation.
Waltham Forest Borough Council, which has placed 57 families in Luton, says budget cuts and an affordable housing shortage forces its hand. Luton Council’s housing portfolio holder Tom Shaw, said that negotiations are ‘going on at the moment at top director level and if that doesn’t work we will contemplate legal action’.
He said Luton has had to spend ‘thousands of pounds’ on providing transport for the children of families arriving from the capital who then find the nearest school is already oversubscribed.
Waltham Forest cabinet member for housing, Khevyn Limbajee, said his council had few options other than out-of-borough placements.
Limbajee said: ‘Rocketing prices in the private rented sector, government cuts to benefit caps and other changes to welfare and a lack of housing availability have resulted in our residents being priced out of the market and the number of homeless households in our borough rising rapidly.
‘The number of households in temporary accommodation currently stands at over 2,000. We spoke to Luton Borough Council ahead of families being offered temporary accommodation there and subsequently notified the council of each individual placement, once confirmed.’
A number of homeless families from Waltham Forest have been housed in a refurbished former Luton office block called Cardiff House, which is about to be sold to a hedge fund as an ‘income generating asset’. Among those living there is Nicola Chapman and her four children, who arrived in Luton in June.
She said: ‘I got evicted from my home in Leyton and the council decided it would be best for me to come here for some unknown reason.’