Croydon Council has announced plans to provide alternative short-term accommodation for homeless people living in controversial bed and breakfasts following the purchase of 189 flats in Thornton Heath. The council estimates it will save upwards of £2 million over the duration of the leases.
Sycamore House and Concorde House – both former office blocks in London Road – are to be leased for 10 years after cabinet approval was received at a meeting on Monday, July 14.
The developments follow a council report that, as of June 23, 2014, there were 513 homeless households in bed and breakfast accommodation, nearly half of which are single parents with one child.
Such was the case for Racheal Wells a mother who was illegally housed in a bed and breakfast in East Croydon, with her three children, for over five months. She was interviewed by eastlondonlines in April 2013.
The use of the buildings in Thornton Heath should ease the council’s reliance on such accommodation, described by BBC Newsnight in 2012 as “overcrowded and sometimes dangerous.”
The Gilroy Court Hotel, in particular, received harsh criticism at the time. The BBC investigation reported that 180 families were living in cramped conditions, often for longer than the lawful period of six weeks.
“Placing a family in shared bed and breakfast accommodation is never a favourable option, which is why we have to look at alternative ways of finding other accommodations,” said Councillor Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration.
Both buildings are currently undergoing refurbishment and are expected to be ready by early 2015, providing homeless families with the opportunity to live in self-contained accommodation, rather than costly bed and breakfasts.
Butler added: “By entering into these leases, it will enable us to provide a much better standard of short-term accommodation for families.
“In the long-term, more affordable homes must be built and the council is taking all action possible to maximise affordable homes in the borough.”
This is welcome news to local charities, especially considering the increasing number of homeless and impoverished people seeking food and living assistance in Croydon.
“Any measure which increases the number of housing units is to be welcomed,” said Jad Adams, chairman of Nightwatch, a charity that provides first line contact for homeless people in Croydon.
“Their only alternative is expensive bed and breakfast rooms which are run as businesses by their owners.
“Families in need are better off in accommodation under direct council control.”
The 189 units will include 40 one-bed flats and 149 purpose-built studios, with eight of the flats in Concord House designed for disabled use.