Secretary of State challenged by local political leaders to intervene to help hundreds of homeless families stuck in hotels, reports James Cracknell
The government is coming under pressure to help Enfield Council resolve its huge homelessness crisis – thought to be one of the most acute in the whole country.
Secretary of State Michael Gove, who leads the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, was challenged in the House of Commons by Edmonton MP Kate Osamor to assist homeless families in Enfield, where the scale of the problem is attracting national media attention.
Last month the Dispatch revealed more than 100 Enfield families with children have been living in hotels beyond the government’s own six-week legal limit for this type of temporary accommodation.
It also emerged that the cost of paying hotel bills for around 350 families in total was now costing £850,000 per month and was set to blow a £20m hole in the council’s annual budget. But while the council is now attempting to reduce this by moving such families “outside south-east England” where “accommodation is affordable” it remains unclear how much of an impact this will have.
Kate Osamor told Gove in the House of Commons: “There are hundreds of families in my constituency living for months on end in hotels as they can no longer afford to rent and the council has no suitable temporary accommodation left. Local authorities currently don’t have the powers or funding they need to tackle the crisis. So will the secretary of state confirm how is he going to change that and give councils like Enfield the resources they need to end this hotel crisis?”
Gove acknowledged there were “too many people in temporary accommodation” and said he would “look at the challenges that Enfield Council faces in terms of the delivery of housing, including affordable housing for the vulnerable families that she champions”.
The Dispatch has approached Gove’s department for an update but has received no response.
The council itself has frequently called for government help, with cabinet member for housing George Savva blaming the freeze since 2020 of the Local Housing Allowance, which sets benefit levels. He added: “The government has failed to develop a plan for housebuilding across the country and despite high numbers of affordable houses being delivered across London by councils, demand is outstripping supply […] our lobbying of the government to urgently address the rental and housing crises will continue.”
The council has failed to meet its annual housebuilding target for several years. Last month it also emerged that 23 homes on a development built on council-owned land at Bury Street West had failed to sell, meaning the council hadn’t generated the surplus needed to provide affordable housing.
Enfield North MP Feryal Clark echoed calls for the government to intervene. In response to a Dispatch report on a family with quadruplets living in a hotel for four months, Feryal said: “Sadly, this issue has become alarmingly frequent.
“Enfield has the highest rate of Section 21 evictions in London, yet the government has been indecisive and delayed vital legislation for far too long.
“It is families in Enfield, like this heartbreaking story, who are paying the awful price for this.
“I have raised this issue in parliament and personally written to the minister on this matter. There is not enough suitable housing in Enfield and not enough protection for families.”