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Exclusive: Borough to move more people out of London

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Westminster City Council is to increase the number of homeless people it moves outside of London as it struggles to cope with rising temporary accommodation costs.

Under new housing policies due to be discussed by councillors on Monday, preference will be given to placing housholds in areas where rents will remain within benefit levels in the longer term and there are jobs. Westminster said it was therefore “likely that many offers will be outside London”.

The council is also expected to procure more of its temporary accommodation outside London “so it is within allowable subsidy levels and is affordable to households”.

The number of households placed in temporary accommodation in another local authority area increased by 17% nationally between 2014 and 2015.

LGC reported last July how the Local Government Association was planning to investigate the way councils place homeless families in other areas after hearing concerns about the impact this was having on areas where households had been placed.

Westminster’s housing and regeneration director Barbara Brownlee told LGC: “We would not do this in areas where we have not talked to the council concerned and we are not looking at places that do not have employment.”

Westminster has about 2,500 households in temporary accommodation and spends about £4.3m a year on it.

Without a new approach this bill could rise to £11.8m in 2020-21 because homelessness acceptances are expected to remain at 475 to 575 a year while the local housing allowance freeze and benefit cap reduction will “continue to make many private rented homes unaffordable to low income households in the city”.

Westminster has about 2,500 households in temporary accommodation and spends about £4.3m a year on that.

Without a new approach this bill could rise to £11.8m in 2020-21 because homelessness acceptances are expected to remain at 475 to 575 a year while the local housing allowance freeze and benefit cap reduction will “continue to make many private rented homes unaffordable to low income households in the city”.

Social housing is so scarce that those who need a four-bedroom home could face a 25 year wait and even a studio could take three years to find, the council said.

Ms Brownlee said locations for rented homes would have to be within an hour’s commute of central London, and Westminster would offer intensive employment support to those involved.

Ms Brownlee said: “This is not a plan to move people out of London. It will be an offer of a private rented tenancy that could be outside London but we will look in Westminster and the rest of London first.”

Those with care and support needs or children at key stages of education will have priority for homes available in Westminster.

Westminster lost a high profile case in the Supreme Court in 2015 on housing homeless households in other areas, when judges ruled it had not produced evidence to show it could not house those concerned in or near the borough.

A council spokesman told LGC that ruling was “not about the principle of locating people out of borough” but whether the decision “had been taken properly”.

He said the court had suggested the council should have policies to demonstrate that decisions were made on a consistent basis. Its new housing policies, due to be discussed by councillors on Monday, “are intended in part to fill the gap”, he said.

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This isn't particularly new. Other London boroughs have been relocating housing benefit recipients to areas with lower rents (mostly towns and cities in the Midlands and North) for some time. There was a Panorama a couple of years ago about it.

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