Conservative led Westminster Council has announced plans that would see increasingly large numbers of Westminster residents who have lost their homes and are in need of temporary accommodation sent to properties in the Midlands, with hundreds being forced to take a private rented flat that would end any responsibility for Westminster to find them a permanent home. Rising homelessness in London is being driven by soaring rents and house prices, a long term fall in the availability of council housing and cuts in government housing support. Many homeless families have people who are in work (that could be at risk if moved to outer London or beyond), act as carers for elderly relatives or have other strong connections to the area.
The Council’s proposals show also show no recognition of the strength of local connections when deciding whether to house them locally (Band 1 for those with care needs), elsewhere in Greater London (Band 2 for those in long-term work or with children taking exams) or anywhere in the country (Band 3 for everyone else). According to the Council’s plans Coventry, Birmingham and Leicester apparently ‘offer the best opportunities’ for Westminster’s residents to be rehoused.
The Council aims to acquire 200 new Private Rented properties, which could see up to 40% of next year’s new applicants pushed into accepting a one-time offer of a private rented property thereby ending the council’s duty to provide them with social housing in the long-term.
Labour is further dismayed that the current plans do not ensure those with a longstanding local connection be prioritised for the right to stay locally compared to others in similar need. Labour also has demanded a basic commitment that those with care needs, jobs in central London, children at local schools or a long-standing local connection must not be forced to accept a private rented sector offer that would end any option for Westminster to eventually supply them with permanent housing.
Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug said: “This council’s decades long atrocious record on building social and genuinely affordable homes combined with the Government’s insidious benefit changes have created a perfect storm for Westminster residents in desperate need for temporary accommodation. This policy formalises and turbo-charges what has happened in recent years where Westminster residents in temporary accommodation are being sent further and further from home. It is essential that Westminster radically improves its council house building plans and challenges the divisive Government policies that underpin these worrying plans.”
- The Council’s own Equality Impact Assessment admits that the policy will have a significant negative impact on all assessed minority and vulnerable groups.
- The details of the council’s plans are here displayed here: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=9319&Opt=0