News

‘Perfect storm’ in Enfield’s rental market hampering efforts to tackle homelessness

Rising rents and evictions as landlords sell up with more facing homelessness as a result, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

To let sign
Fewer landlords in the private rental market is pushing up prices

The private rental market is “shrinking” in Enfield thanks to landlords selling up – creating a “perfect storm” of evictions and rising rents.

A meeting of Enfield Council’s housing scrutiny panel on Wednesday (22nd) heard that efforts to reduce the use of temporary accommodation were being hampered by a collapsing private rental market.

Eloise Shepherd, the council’s housing improvement programme director, said the number of households in temporary accommodation had increased during the past year, particularly families staying in hotels and bed and breakfasts.

She told the meeting the reduction in the supply of rental homes was “much steeper” in Enfield compared to London as a whole because the borough had previously been relatively affordable.

The council is now considering using modular homes – buildings that are manufactured quickly and affordably off-site – as a way of relieving homelessness in the borough, although a decision on whether to go ahead with the proposal is not expected to come until the end of 2024.

Under questioning from councillors, officers revealed there had been a surge in the number of landlords who lease homes to the council asking for their properties to be returned to them.

Richard Sorensen, head of the civic centre’s housing advisory service, said the council had renegotiated with landlords to lease their properties at a higher rate.

He added: “Over the past two years we have seen a 90% decrease in the supply of affordable private rented accommodation in Enfield […] We are still on a downward trend in the market.

“That is driven by landlords exiting the market. People are selling. For the first time since the post-war period, the private sector is shrinking.”

Richard said this had led to higher rents being charged for the remaining homes and a surge in evictions, describing the situation as a “perfect storm”.

Under further questioning, Richard said Enfield was competing against other local authorities and the Home Office to procure temporary accommodation in the borough, which was also pushing up costs.

The council is looking to boost the supply of housing by reducing the number of empty homes in the borough. Since March last year the number of empty homes has fallen from 2,620 to 1,769, and each property brought back into use can save the council around £25,000 every year.

The housing panel also heard that council-owned property company Housing Gateway was buying up homes and renting them out to people who would otherwise be placed in expensive temporary accommodation such as hotels, with savings of up to £30,000 per property every year.

Since it was set up in 2014, Housing Gateway has built up a portfolio of 648 properties, saving around £13.2m to date. But acquisitions have stalled this year following a hike in interest rates, with the company buying just 34 properties against a target of 70.

The council also runs an “ethical lettings agency”, Enfield Let, which leases homes from landlords to rent to low-income households. It currently has a portfolio of 248 properties.

A further report presented to the meeting revealed that the council’s street homeless service has found, visited, supported and housed 840 rough sleepers in Enfield since April 2020.

It adds that the latest government figures showed the number of rough sleepers in the borough fell by 48% between autumn 2021 and autumn 2022. This was the highest reduction in rough sleeping achieved in the UK and came despite a 34% increase across London as a whole.


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