News

Housing pressures continue at civic centre amid homelessness crisis

Councillors hear update on the cost of temporary accommodation and repairs to the council’s housing stock, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Temporary accommodation costs and increased demand on repair services continue to be Enfield’s “biggest budget pressures” according to civic centre bosses.

During a finance and performance scrutiny panel yesterday (Thursday 7th) the council’s strategic director for housing and regeneration, Joanne Drew, gave an overview of temporary accommodation costs and an update on housing repairs.

She said the “sharp decline” of the private rented sector nationally had meant many low-income households were faced with “very high levels” of eviction and, because of the lack of “suitable low-cost accommodation”, the council had been forced to place more and more families in hotels.

Joanne said this type of emergency accommodation, especially for families, was often unsuitable, with people unable to cook or access medicine easily and the cost on the council was “very high”. 

She said: “It is a pan-London pressure, so although our budget position is very serious and significant there are at least five or six other London boroughs with larger deficits than us, including one with a £45m annual deficit.

“This just demonstrates, once you have no option but to house residents in hotels, the cost is very difficult. It’s very difficult to get solutions at scale and pace to enable you to exit from hotels.”

One way the council is said to be tackling this is by buying more homes itself to keep temporary accommodation stock under “direct control” rather than being “exposed” to the private rental sector.

Housing repairs is another service which has caused some the “biggest budget pressures” due to high demand.

Joanne explained that, following the national focus on tackling damp and mould, the council was conducting surveys across “all” of its homes.

So far the council has completed around 3,000 surveys. But the repairs identified were creating “additional demand” on services, along with the costs of carrying out checks, including gas and safety certification, electric checks, water testing and fire risk assessments.

These checks had led to increased remedial works and increased costs and, combined with inflationary pressures, more budget pressures.

However, Joanne said the money spent was “all investment in homes” and the council had “upped” its repairs budget for 2024/25 to reflect its increased focus on maintenance. 

Some positive updates heard during the meeting included the rise in the council’s homes “decency” rating following a £100m investment into the sector. Over the past 18 months the rating had increased from 60% to 81.25%.

Joanne predicted that, as the council aimed to hit a 100% homes decency rating, it would see a reduction in responsive repairs.

She also said the council was working with the Greater London Authority on development programmes and had “maximised” the grant to support the council’s Reardon Court extra care housing scheme, amounting to £3m in secured funding. 

Conservative committee member Paul Pratt asked whether the pressure on housing services would be as great if the delivery of the Meridian Water development had not been delayed.

The plan for Meridian Water is to deliver 10,000 homes over the next 25 years. 

Joanne said on all development schemes over the last two years there had been a “complete slow down” because of the “volatile environment”. She said costs to develop schemes had been “40% over budget” and “simply uneconomical”. 

Despite there slowly being more stability, costs are still not “coming down” and the council is exploring more grant opportunities, but this was “not enough to bridge the viability gaps”. 

Joanne anticipated 100 homes on the Meridian Water scheme would be ready over the next several months and argued the scheme had made “good” progress for its “scale”. 

Committee member Thomas Fawns asked about the council’s empty homes initiative and how it tied into its homelessness strategy.

Joanne said the council offered “support incentives” to owners that may not be able to afford to do necessary works to their properties and that 40 homes had been brought back into use so far this year.


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