In the latest of our series of stories on the housing crisis in London, Isabel Togoh reports on the cuts in funding to help homeless families, as both house prices and homeless numbers continue to rise.
Funding to prevent homelessness in Lewisham has been cut by 27 per cent. This comes at the same time as it was revealed that house prices in the borough are the fastest rising in London.
The figures were revealed to Steve Reed, Labour MP for Croydon South, after he asked a parliamentary question to Marcus Jones, minister for communities and local government.
Reed said later: “The Government’s short-sighted cuts to the vital Homelessness Prevention Grant (HPG) will push more and more people onto the streets – and that will end up costing the taxpayer more in the long-term.”
Homelessness across London has increased by 12 per cent since 2012, according to House of Commons Library data.
Estate agency Savills said last month that by 2020 house prices in Lewisham will increase by 20 per cent, the joint fastest rate in London alongside Waltham Forest.
In 2012, HPG funding allocated to Lewisham stood at £675,000, compared to £490,000 set aside for 2015/16. Designed to protect at-risk people from statutory homelessness and rough sleeping, the grant by the Department of Communities and Local Government has been cut by 13 per cent, or more than £5 million, throughout London.
During last month’s Spending Review, Chancellor George Osborne revealed that the grant would be ring-fenced, protecting it from further cuts.
A spokesperson for the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint said: “We were pleased to see the Government safeguard in real terms the homelessness prevention grant in last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review but there is no hiding from the fact that it follows a period of cuts which have proven hugely challenging for local authorities.”
Outer London boroughs faced above average cuts, including Croydon a with 17 per cent drop. Greenwich, Lewisham’s neighbouring borough, faced one the highest cuts at 31 per cent.
Statutory homelessness defines those households that lose out on their accommodation due to price, location or condition and require assistance from a local authority. From 2012/13 to 2014/15, the number of families in temporary accommodation including bed and breakfasts rose by 20 per cent across London.
Rough sleepers constitute those without shelter. In 2014/15, Tower Hamlets had the fourth highest rate of rough sleepers in London at 377, an increase of 53 people on the previous year, government data reveals.
Regeneration in ELL boroughs, especially Hackney and Tower Hamlets, could be to blame for the increase in rough sleepers. The selling off of social housing and a pricing out of local residents have caused concern in recent months.
By contrast, statutory homelessness in Tower Hamlets is relatively low, likely as a result of a series of measures implemented by the council to help homeless people in the borough. These include donating to homelessness charities and alerting the council to rough sleepers via the “StreetLink” app.
The Centrepoint spokesperson said: “Throughout this time we have continued to work very closely with Lewisham to ensure homeless young people in the borough receive the support they need. At Centrepoint, this means much more than a safe bed for the night; we provide the skills and confidence young people need to pursue further opportunities in education and employment and ultimately secure a job and a home.”