As one south London authority announces it’s to build new homes to ease its housing crisis, another is to tell homeless people they have to move out.
Lewisham Council is to build 250 new council homes – the borough’s first new social housing since the 1970s. But in Croydon, the Council has admitted that it can no longer cope with its crippling housing demand and will offer its homeless residents accommodation in other parts of the country.
Lewisham Homes will build the 250 units over the next five years as part of its 30-year business plan to improve social housing. The average development cost for each one is expected to be £150,000. It also plans to invest in sheltered and extra care housing over the same period and will be looking at developing bigger homes on estates with the aim of keeping communities together.
Mayor Sir Steve Bullock said: “This is a very substantial development but it is not enough. We need to build more homes in Lewisham. The additions are not keeping pace with demand.” He said that the shelter and extra care housing “needs significant levels of investment, redesign and substantial changes to bring it up to modern day standards.”
The Mayor is also considering transferring Lewisham’s remaining council homes to another organisation. He said that ownership could be handed over to a mutual or a co-op.
He told the News Shopper Lewisham Council’s own record on housing management wasn’t great: “We weren’t very good at it. If there are people, including tenants, who are better at it, then let’s give them the scope to do that.”
The decision made on Monday by Croydon’s Conservative-controlled cabinet is due to a shortage of temporary accommodation, which has left 429 families – including more than 600 children – living in emergency bed and breakfast. This is a 200 per cent rise over the past year.
As reported by ELL last week, Croydon Council, which has also seen a 36 per cent increase in homelessness during the last 12 months, has been working alongside Sutton, Richmond and Kingston councils to obtain 150 properties outside of London, with Croydon taking the larger portion. It said the councils have not yet decided where the homeless families will be moved to.
Cllr Dudley Mead, cabinet member for housing, said: “It’s an incontrovertible fact we don’t have enough space 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 that they ask for.
Jad Adams, Chair of Nightwatch, Croydon’s homeless charity said: “If there are places in other parts of the country and if they could move and are willing to move, then that’s not a bad thing.
“I don’t have an alternative solution. In March Nightwatch saw 60 permanently homeless people visiting for food and help. In June, it was 80.
He said one of the big problems Croydon is facing is the influx of people from troubled European economies.
“When immigrants first arrive in the UK, many of them settle in Croydon as it’s home to the UK’s main immigration centre, Lunar House.”
But despite the council’s decision to uproot its homeless residents to other parts of the country, it has only used one quarter of the £2.2 New Homes Bonus awarded by the government for providing new accommodation. The remaining £1.55m has been allocated to other council projects.
The New Homes Bonus is funding given to local authorities by the government for new homes.
Lauren Buljubasic and Emma Marvin