Lewisham council to buy 300 homes for homeless families

Landlord evictions in the borough are on the rise. Pic: East London Lines

Three hundred homes will be bought for homeless families by Lewisham Council in a new scheme aimed at providing emergency accommodation for families who are at risk of homelessness or currently homeless.

A report that signified the need for new homes was presented to Lewisham’s cabinet on March 8, and plans were approved soon after. A number of families are expected to occupy the new social houses within the near future.

Lewisham Council has announced plans to place 2,780 families into temporary housing. Following a 26 per cent increase in demand for housing from April last year, the authority said that it “cannot keep pace with demand” for social housing and would acquire the new homes to reduce waiting lists.

Cllr Sophie Davis, Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness told ELL: “I’m delighted we’re proceeding with plans to purchase 300 new properties to use for temporary accommodation. They will help to provide more security for homeless families waiting for permanent accommodation, as well as saving the Council money in the long-term.”

There were over 10,200 families on the council’s housing waiting list last April. Lewisham hope that the new purchase will lead to “more consistent living standards” and help to decrease the amount of money that is spent on emergency accommodation.

Although they have not disclosed how much money they have invested, the council claimed that they would be prepared to spend £600,000 on each property.

The BBC said that a report found the council had spent over £140,000 on hotels for homeless families last year, quadruple the amount spent in the previous financial year.

Housing and homelessness charity, Shelter, ranked Lewisham sixth on its top 10 list of the highest homelessness rates in London. By January, there had been almost 7,300 people living in temporary accommodation arranged by the council, higher than any other borough in southeast London.

Across England, over a quarter of a million people are homeless (living in temporary accommodation or sleeping on the streets). London has accumulated the majority of the nation’s homeless population with an estimated 150,742 people, Shelter figures show.

In Lewisham, around one in 41 people are homeless, the charity said.

In recent times, the Lewisham community have been badly affected by inflation and soaring living costs. In the first two months of 2023, there has been a 66 per cent increase in the number of Lewisham residents visiting foodbanks compared to the same time last year.

Shelter are issuing an urgent appeal for increased public support as they expect a drastic uprise in homelessness in 2023.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: “The new year should be a time of hope, but this isn’t the case for the 271,000 homeless people [in England] who are facing a truly bleak 2023.”

“At Shelter, we are bracing ourselves for a sharp rise in homelessness in 2023.”

As part of their rehousing scope, Lewisham Council plans to develop 2,000 new council homes by 2026 to facilitate a decline in families piling up on the waiting list. Due to the high level of demand for homes, the council will only be able to accommodate those who are in the most desperate need.

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