Council sets out homelessness strategy

Enfield Civic Centre

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

An ambitious plan to end homelessness in Enfield has been approved by Enfield Council’s key decision makers.

The local authority will focus on intervening early to stop people from becoming homeless, so it no longer needs to place residents in temporary accommodation. It sees the private rental sector as a solution to the homelessness problem and aims to boost supply using the council-owned company, Housing Gateway.

Described as a “step change” in approach by council leader Nesil Caliskan, the new Preventing Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy was approved by cabinet members last month. The report says the rate of homelessness in Enfield has soared by 250% since 2011 – partly because of government welfare reforms such as Universal Credit and caps on benefits.

Enfield has the second-highest number of people in temporary accommodation in the country and had the fourth-highest rough sleeper count in London in 2018. The main cause of homelessness in the borough is eviction from private rented sector accommodation.

Council staff now plan to use data to identify residents who are at risk of becoming homeless and intervene “at the earliest opportunity” before problems start to snowball. Working alongside the voluntary sector, it will ensure residents have training and support before their tenancies start and are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Rather than paying private landlords incentives to let their properties, the council plans to fund the deposit and month’s rent in advance for people who cannot do so themselves. Ending the use of temporary accommodation to house people who have become homeless is expected to save the council more than £1million per year.

Cllr Caliskan said: “This is a step change – it is different to what the administration was doing and indicates we are going in another direction.

“Part of that is acknowledging the private sector is here and it is not serving residents well. We have to engage with the private rented sector far earlier than we do.

“What this strategy says is if you think you are going to become homeless, it is okay to go to John Wilkes House and say you need help before you get an eviction notice.

“This strategy says prevention is the best thing we can do as a local authority.”