Council leader begs government to raise housing benefit as homelessness crisis continues

Nesil Caliskan writes to minister calling for help to reduce Enfield’s increasing use of “expensive and unsuitable emergency accommodation”, reports James Cracknell

Housing minister Lee Rowley (left) and Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan (right)
Housing minister Lee Rowley (left) and Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan (right)

The leader of Enfield Council has appealed directly to government for help tackling the borough’s ongoing homelessness crisis that has seen hundreds of families holed up in hotels for months on end.

Nesil Caliskan wrote a letter to Lee Rowley last week, before he was re-appointed housing minister this afternoon (Monday 13th) after moving from his role as local government minister within the same department. She urged him to increase the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), which sets benefits rates and has remained frozen for three-and-a-half years despite soaring rental costs.

Cllr Caliskan warned that local authorities such as Enfield were struggling to cope with the number of families now presenting to them as homeless, with the borough now having the highest number of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions in London.

A 41% drop in properties available for rent in Enfield since 2020 means many evicted families have nowhere else to go, she pointed out.

Cllr Caliskan blamed “the collapse of the private rented sector since the government’s ‘mini-budget’ [under Liz Truss in 2022]” for the borough’s problems and added in her letter to the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC): “Consequently, the number of homeless households approaching the council for help is unprecedented and we currently have 290 families in costly emergency hotel accommodation.

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“This is just one symptom of the growing housing crisis facing this country, where the only long-term solution is to increase housing supply. In the short term, councils need help tackling the immediate emergency facing our residents and budgets.”

As well as raising LHA to match the increase in rents seen since 2020, Cllr Caliskan also wants the government to provide “top-up funding” via its homelessness prevention grants, as well as additional discretionary housing payments to cover accommodation costs and “prevent families from becoming homeless by stopping a build-up of rent arrears”.

Enfield Council is currently spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per month on housing families in hotels such as Enfield Travelodge, but Cllr Caliskan says that raising LHA instead “would be a better use of the public purse than the current system which has a high reliance on expensive and unsuitable emergency accommodation”.

Enfield has historically been heavily dependent on the private rental sector for housing families in temporary accommodation because of the borough’s relative lack of social housing compared with other boroughs, while the council has also repeatedly failed to meet its housebuilding targets.

As well as a homelessness crisis, the exponential rise in housing costs at Enfield Civic Centre has created a financial crisis, with the Labour administration currently scrambling to plug a £39million budget hole for 2024/25. The council is now waiting to hear how much it will receive in its annual grant from the government, with the upcoming Autumn Statement from Chancellor of Exchequer Jeremy Hunt on 22nd November seen as crucial for next year’s budget setting.

DLUHC did not respond to a request for comment.

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