In the second of our series on the housing crisis facing London, Joey McCarthy reveals how local authorities are sending thousands of homeless people long distances in search of temporary accomodation.
Almost 5,500 homeless people have been temporarily rehoused out of their home boroughs in the past three years, an Eastlondonlines investigation has found.
A Freedom Of Information request found that Lewisham, Croydon, and Tower Hamlets have been exporting thousands of homeless people to other boroughs each year. Since 2016, 5,339 people have been placed into temporary accommodation outside of their borough.
Eastlondonlines have also put in a request to Hackney council but responded that the way they do not collect totals for the end of the year, only those that have been placed in temporary accommodation at the time of recording.
Out of the three with comparable data, Tower Hamlets moves most homeless families to other boroughs- some as far as Leicester. Tower Hamlets told Eastlondonlines that they “now have more families temporarily housed within the borough than outside of it.”. However, according to the most recent statistics in September 2018, this is not true. Out of a total 2326 households put into temporary accommodation this year- less than half were in Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets said: “The council is acquiring more properties (250 in the last year) to provide better quality temporary accommodation within the borough. This has resulted in a reduction in temporary accommodation outside of the borough, so we now have more families temporarily housed within the borough than outside of it.
“Wherever possible, we aim to accommodate households in or near to the borough. The main reason we cannot accommodate everyone is because of the affordability of privately owned accommodation. Properties in other parts of London are more affordable, which reduces the cost to local taxpayers as well as the charge to the families themselves.”
Such temporary accomodation can vary from private bed and breakfast style houses or hostels to accomodation owned or rented by local authorities in other boroughs.
Homless charity Shelter describe temporary housing as having two core functions. Primarily it is a stopgap until the council is capable of finding permanent accommodation for the homeless family. But also must be suitable for the household, which includes being affordable and “as far as reasonably practicable, within their home area.”
Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter said: “We see the damage caused when homeless families are forced to uproot their lives and move miles away to temporary accommodation in another area – abandoning jobs, schools and support networks in the process.
“Put under pressure from the chronic shortage of social homes and budget cuts, overstretched councils are struggling to keep homeless families within their local community. Despite this, they must still consider the needs of families before moving them out and causing yet more trauma.”
Lewisham council told Eastlondonlines that “we are committed to rehousing homeless families in or as near to the borough and their family support networks as we can. However, in the face of growing demand and decreasing resources, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.
“Despite these difficulties, it’s important to note that, with 28% of our temporarily accommodated families living outside of the borough, we are on par with the English average and well below the London-wide average.”
According to the most recent statistics in June, 54,540 households were placed in temporary accommodation in London. London’s Poverty Profile in 2017 found that over 19,500 households were placed in temporary accommodation outside their own borough.
Although Eastlondonlines boroughs are not the biggest exporter of homeless families to other authorities it still highlights that local councils are struggling to provide temporary housing in their area. This has often been due to increasing demand and lack of affordable privately owned properties.
In comparison to Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, Croydon moves far less homeless people out of their borough. Croydon council said “although homelessness is an ongoing major challenge here and across London, most Croydon people who need suitable temporary accommodation get somewhere in the borough.
“When we need to look further afield, council staff consider their individual needs and wishes before moving them, and the number of placements outside Croydon has dropped in recent years.
“This drop is helped by a series of council initiatives that boost local good-quality supply, from rescuing derelict properties to creating an independent housing charity and a social lettings agency to get families into long-term and affordable homes.”