It is an ‘absolute disgrace’ that more than 200 homeless families in Tower Hamlets are in bed and breakfast accommodation longer than the rule of six weeks, a council meeting was told.
A report to last weeks full council meeting disclosed that there were currently 229 Tower Hamlets families unlawfully housed in B&Bs for over the legal six-week threshold. Families in emergency housing situations are put in B&Bs until the housing association can place them in long-term council housing.
Labour councillor Marc Francis told the meeting: “Eighteen months into your administration you’re saying it’s over 200 [families] which is an absolute disgrace.”
Francis continued: “It’s not just a disgrace in theory for every one of those families who is having to endure prolonged periods in B&B accommodation, it’s a disaster. It’s undermining their children’s health, undermining their educational attainment as well”.
In June 2022, there were zero families in B&B’s for longer than the legal limit. In August 2023, there were 168 families who were reported to be in B&B’s for longer. This means that the number of families in emergency housing for longer than the legal six-week limit has further increased from 168 to 220 since August.
Councillor Francis said after the meeting that the current situation as “shocking”. He said that it is “inexcusable” that the council are breaking the law again. He said: “Homeless families will rightly question whether Aspire is competent to run this vital service.”
Councillor Kabir Ahmed, the council’s cabinet member for homelessness told the meeting that the increase was down to a “perfect storm of interest rates going up, mortgage rates going up, rent hikes happening to residents and the unaffordability of the private rental sector for many in Tower Hamlets.”
He added: “We are not alone in this, across London and many other authorities in the country, everybody is struggling”.
Francis asked Ahmed, why Tower Hamlets is an “outlier” compared to other boroughs and if “it is because of the melt-down he is presiding over in the housing service”.
Ahmed replied: “We are taking proactive steps to help these residents in a number of ways. We have been looking at various different approaches – putting them away from corporate hotels to more B&B based hotels where they can do their own cooking and support families, we have been looking at setting up modular homes, in order to support homeless people”.
“We have the new local plan but in addition to this we are exploring various different opportunities for temporary accommodation”.