Confusion as residents told to leave temporary housing block in Southbury

Enfield Council has been sending ‘notice to quit’ letters to residents of Brickfield House in Southbury Road, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A former office building, Brickfield House in Southbury is used by Enfield Council to house hundreds of people in temporary accommodation
Brickfield House in Southbury

Homeless people living in a temporary accommodation block in Southbury are facing an uncertain future after the council suddenly told them to leave.

Residents living in Brickfield House, Southbury Road – a former office block converted into 124 flats – were given notices to quit telling them to be out of the building by 30th July.

Two current residents told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that Enfield Council had not given a definitive reason why people had to leave. Although some have already moved out, many are still living in the block and are worried about where they will go. Information provided by the council has informed them that they could move out of London.

It comes amid an escalating housing crisis that has led the council to start moving homeless families out of London and the south-east to plug a £20million budget gap caused by spending on bed and breakfast (B&B) types of accommodation, including hotels. Around 3,100 households in the borough are currently living in temporary housing.

A council spokesperson said notices had been served to some residents “due to a range of factors, including breach of tenancy terms, antisocial behaviour and rent arrears”.

Brickfield House was bought by Housing Gateway, a council-owned company set up to provide affordable rented accommodation, in 2016. Residents were recently told that the management of the building is transferring to Enfield Let, which is Housing Gateway’s trading arm.

One resident, who did not want to be named, told the LDRS that people were “all told different reasons” about why they had been given a notice to quit. She said one contractor carrying out repairs had told her that the place was originally designed as offices “and that is why it has come into huge problems”.

The resident, who said she had been in temporary accommodation for nearly seven years, said she had been told about the benefits of moving to Peterborough – and that refusing an offer there would constitute a refusal under the Housing Act, meaning the council’s obligation to house her would be removed.

She added: “I had five other properties in temporary accommodation […] I just want a place of my own.”

The resident said that her doctor had written six letters “in detail” explaining that she needed to remain near the hospitals where she is receiving treatment.

“But it just feels like we are not listened to,” she added. “It feels like we are hitting a brick wall all the time.

“I am on the waiting list for two operations […] Suggesting moving out of the area for me is not an option, and judging by a lot of people in that block it is not an option for them as well.”

Under the council’s policies, residents can bid for social housing using a system that awards them points to measure their housing priority based on their circumstances. But she said that despite receiving evidence of her health problems, the council told her she was not entitled to any more points to bid on properties.

The resident said she had looked into rental homes but would be unable to afford them, with some landlords requiring £4,000 in the bank and a month’s deposit up front.

Recently, she added, the hot water and electricity at Brickfield House had been switched off temporarily, and the council had been “withdrawing from doing some external repairs”.

Another resident, Mr Harris, who has been in temporary accommodation for four years, said he had been told “hardly anything” about why he had to move out of the building.

“I feel in limbo,” he added. “We are not told with reference to what the council has in store for us. We are ignored, basically. I feel ignored.”

Mr Harris said that he did not know where he would move to, pointing out that the cost-of-living crisis was making life “difficult for everybody”.

“We have been told that we have to enter the private rental market, which we can’t afford.

“There are families and individuals who are vulnerable and are not aware of the process with reference to eviction. They are going to find it hard. Some of them don’t work and are going to find it hard in the private rental sector.”

In 2021, one resident of Brickfield House said she had experienced bullying and verbal abuse from staff. Mr Harris said he himself had been racially harassed and bullied during his time at the building but the council ignored it for a “considerable amount of time” and he was told he would not be moved.

Speaking about the possibility of having to move to a different area, he said: “We are isolated, effectively, and that is a tall order. [Residents] being asked to acclimatise themselves to a new area where they don’t really know anybody – I can see the struggles and anxiety.”

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council is committed to enabling everyone to access a stable, secure and decent home and to minimise the use of temporary accommodation. Brickfield House was purchased by Housing Gateway Ltd in 2016 and is used for temporary accommodation […] but the change in management to Enfield Let will have no impact on the current residents of the building.

“The change in management will help the council manage the increasing cost of temporary accommodation by avoiding the usual subsidy the council covers for temporary accommodation placements, as the borough is facing a housing crisis which the government is failing to tackle.

“The council recently served notice to some residents due to a range of factors, including breach of tenancy terms, antisocial behaviour and rent arrears.

“Each tenant will be supported through the wide range of initiatives the council has on offer to support people into permanent accommodation, including our national placement policy and Find Your Own Home scheme.

“At the same time, the council is carrying out maintenance works to ensure the safety of every tenant. Impacted residents are being moved within Brickfield House for the works to be carried out swiftly and safely.”

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