Council says it wants to stop sending vulnerable people out of Enfield, reports James Cracknell
Efforts by Enfield Council to begin “phasing out” the use of temporary accommodation outside of the borough have been welcomed by campaigners.
The pledge was made last month by council leader Nesil Caliskan as she looks to drastically cut the £7million cost per year to the local authority of providing emergency housing.
Enfield has the second highest number of homeless families in the country, with just under 3,500 households living in temporary accommodation, according to the latest government figures. Of these, 755 families are being forced to live outside of the borough.
But now Enfield has become one of the first London local authorities to make such a bold promise on reducing out-of-borough temporary accommodation placements. Work is beginning at Redstone House in Harlow, Essex, to return homeless families living there to Enfield within six months.
Cllr Caliskan said: “We are committed to supporting people who want to stay in Enfield. This in turn will help create and support more stable and cohesive communities.
“It is not news to anyone that we are in a housing crisis. While the cost of living continues to rise we are hampered by extensive cuts to our funding and reductions to local housing allowance rates.
“However, we are determined to use all the tools at our disposal to tackle the issue of temporary accommodation head on and eradicate homelessness from Enfield altogether, while supporting those in housing need.”
Across London the number of households living in temporary accommodation has risen by 50% in just five years. Earlier this year the London Assembly produced a report examining potential solutions to the problem, but concluded that more government money would be needed both to help prevent families from being made homeless and to help councils cope with the demand for temporary housing. It said many vulnerable people were being “left in temporary accommodation indefinitely, with no hope of acquiring secure affordable housing” and were “having to choose between leaving the area they call home or losing their temporary accommodation”.
A big factor in Enfield is that potential accommodation for local households is instead being used by other councils to house their own homeless families. Efforts will therefore be made to engage with neighbouring local authorities on ways to reduce this.
Gina Needs, cabinet member for social housing, added: “Nearly 60% of our temporary housing is utilised by other boroughs. On top of this, there are simply too many households in temporary accommodation in Enfield. We need to take a transformational approach to prevent homelessness, develop relationships between residents and landlords to make tenancies successful, and make sure temporary accommodation really is temporary.”
The move has been welcomed by local campaign Better Homes for Enfield – who said it was a “relief” to see something being done about the problem.
The council has recently announced a number of other policies aimed at tackling the housing crisis and improving the lives of people renting privately. One is a proposal to force landlords to apply for licences in a bid to boost housing standards. The plan is currently out for consultation but if it goes ahead would mean landlords have to meet conditions such as carrying out safety checks and ensuring properties are not overcrowded or dangerous.
In addition, at a council meeting last month Cllr Caliskan criticised ‘permitted development rights’ which allow offices to be converted into homes without planning permission or adhering to usual quality standards, saying she wanted to restrict them by implementing an ‘Article 4’ direction.
Al Sims, from Better Homes for Enfield, said: “Having an Article 4 direction will help to protect local employment and ensure that flats developed from converted offices are built to a decent standard. It’s a pity that it’s taken so long – there have been repeated warnings about this issue – but thank you to everyone who signed our petition.”