The front page of today’s Echo carried the banner headline: ‘SOUTHEND BRACED FOR INFLUX OF LONDON TENANTS’, leading to the following article on page 5, following on from my article last week (EXCLUSIVE: London Councils Moving Tenants To Southend)
“London boroughs have been approaching private landlords in Southend, asking them to take on their tenants.
Senior Southend Council officer Simon Leftley confirmed at a meeting last week that London councils were in talks with at least two local landlords.
Labour leader Ian Gilbert said: ‘The trouble is, Southend is affordable in comparison to most of the South East. It has a much larger stock of houses of multiple occupancy, where it is possible to cram a lot of people into a small space, which makes it a prime location for people who cannot afford London rents. This is further proof that the Governments welfare policies don’t wrk, and that they are going to affect people in Southend.’
Council leader, Tory Nigel Holdcroft, said: “It’s clearly completely unsatisfactory. We are monitoring it closely and liaising with local authorities which we feel may be attempting to do this. We are anxious that it’s not just transferring financial pressures from other local authorities to us.”
Many councils are currently looking for affordable housing outside of teir own areas, in order to reduce pressure on housing budgets. The problem has grown snce the Government announced a £21,000 annual cap on the amount that a person can claim in housing benefit, or Local Housing Allowance, due to be implemented this Spring.
Authorities in London are finding that for their tenants, the gap between Local Housing Allowance payments and the market rents will simply be too big to meet.
The number of families living in temporary accommodation in London has risen by 5% in the past year. Some areas of London have seen steeper rises, with Croydon Council one of the worst hit, with a 30% rise in the number of families living in temporary accommodation, and appointing a taskforce to find properties outside of the borough.
Meanwhile, Southend Council is trying to identify people who have already moved here from London in order to understand the scale of the problem, as there are already more than 5,000 people in the borough already waiting for social housing in the town.
Only one household has moved here from London so far, but Southend Council is gearing up for many more. It fears many private landlords will be tempted by cash incentives of up to £1,500 in order to take on their tenants.
Jacqui Lansley, head of community strategy and development for the council, said: “These initiatives also include schemes which incentivise applicants awaiting accommodation in London to move anywhere in the country, with the London borough covering resettlement costs, including travel and removal expenses. Some London boroughs are offering private sector landlords and agents one-off payments of up to £1,500 in return for leasing them properties for their homeless households.”
Southend Council is now preparing for an influx of tenants from the capital and the strain that this will put on services.
Ms Lansley said: “In response to this, the council is working proactively with private sector landlords and agents in Southend. To date, only one household from London has been accommodated in the borough through one of these schemes. We are in discussions with the London boroughs to try to reach an agreement on how homeless households should be dealt with if they are looking to relocate them outside of their borough, to places such as Southend.”
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @:MsJackMonroe