Local authorities in London are preparing to defy ministerial demands and send thousands of homeless families to live in temporary accommodation outside the capital.
In advance of next April’s welfare cuts, which are expected to create a surge in the numbers of vulnerable families presenting as homeless, councils are acquiring properties in Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Sussex.
Some are even considering accommodation as far away as Manchester, Hull and Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.
Research by the Guardian newspaper, shows benefit caps have left many councils facing a ‘practically impossible position’, leaving them no option but to seek housing options outside capital, according to some local authority officials.
Some councils are reported to estimate up to a third of families affected by the introduction of the £26,000 benefit cap, the local housing allowance cap and under-occupation penalties- known as the spare room tax – will lose around £100 a week.
Ken Jones, director of housing and strategy at Barking and Dagenham council, east London, said:
It is going to be practically impossible to provide affordable accommodation to meet our homelessness duties in London.
As the pressures increase we will be looking to procure well out of London, and even out of the home counties.
The news comes after Newham LBC’s controversial plans in April to export benefit dependent families to cheaper areas of the country such as Stoke-on-Trent, which was described by critics as ‘social cleansing’.
Newham LBC had written to more than 1,000 social housing providers to secure alternative accommodation for households it claims have been priced out of the capital by coalition caps on housing benefits.
At the time former housing minister Grant Shapps criticised Newham and said:
I’ve just changed the rules to allow local authorities to discharge their homelessness duty using the private rented sector, but I’ve been absolutely clear in those rules to local authorities that they must take into account the welfare of the tenants in doing so, which includes, for example, not packing them up and sending them off to Stoke.
Government guidance states:
Homeless households may not always be able to stay in their previous neighbourhoods. However, the government considers that it is not acceptable for local authorities to make compulsory placements automatically hundreds of miles away, without having proper regard for the disruption this may cause to those households.
A study by the charity Child Poverty Action Group has suggested councils can expect a raft of legal challenges from homeless residents, who will cite this guidance to argue the offer of accommodation outside the capital is ‘unsuitable’ for them because of the impact on their health and children’s education.
Source: Local Gov