In the final of our four-part series of stories about the housing crisis in London, Amalia Illgner reports on new figures that reveal Croydon’s poor record on housing families with children in temporary accommodation.
Croydon Council is the worst borough in the country for keeping families with children in emergency B&B accommodation over the six week legal time limit, new government figures have revealed.
One hundred and seventeen Croydon families are expected to be spending Christmas in temporary accommodation having already been there longer than the six-week legal limit, according to figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The Government requires authorities to move such families into permanent housing within six weeks of being originally made homeless but the shortage of cheaper housing, particularly in London makes authorities routinely break the law.
The Croydon figure is in stark contrast to figures of fewer than 18 months ago. After Eastlondonlines reported that more than 70 families were overstaying the legal limit in March 2013, the council successfully slashed the number to zero by June that year. However, this figure shot up to 45 by the end of 2014 and has more than doubled just a year later.
A Croydon council spokesperson said: “Over the last few months we’ve been working to reduce these figures and we have several plans in place to continue this trend. These include continuing to build hundreds of new council houses, using our Gateway welfare service to help families avoid homelessness and investing millions in both the private rented sector and more temporary accommodation”.
In 2014 ELL reported that the council purchased 189 flats in Thornton Heath as a measure to stem the reliance on bed and breakfasts.
The Government figures also show that in Tower Hamlets, another ELL borough, has the second highest figure in the country, with 106 families, living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation longer than the legal six-week limit.
But a spokesperson from the council claimed that the number has now been slashed to 30 – a reduction of 70 per cent – in the last six weeks. The council said it is “making strenuous efforts” to get families into self-contained accommodation before Christmas.
“The principal reason we have any families in bed and breakfasts is the reduction in suitable self-contained accommodation being provided by the private rented sector to local authorities. We are not the only council facing this issue – this is something seen across London,” the council said.
Hackney says it has no families living in bed and breakfast accommodation longer than the six-week legal limit since 2012 and Lewisham reported 18 families in June 2014, but has since reduced that number to zero.
Such families are considered “statutorily homeless” by the Government if they have no legal right to a home or have to move for other reasons, such as criminal threats and have no alternative accommodation. Many are in mortgage or rent arrears which lead to repossession or eviction.
According to homeless charity Shelter, 80,530 children across the capital will be homeless this Christmas, with the number of families living in emergency B&Bs in the capital rising by a staggering 71 per cent in just one year.
Shelter said: “These figures are a heart-breaking reminder that thousands of families in London will wake up on Christmas morning in a cramped, dingy B&B or hostel room, sometimes miles away from everyone and everything they know.”
Hostels are often cramped and with shared cooking facilities and bathrooms.
Read ELL’s coverage of the housing crisis: