Shapps: 'Not acceptable for councils to place homeless hundreds of miles away'
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Shapps: Not acceptable for councils to place homeless hundreds of miles away
Under plans to allow councils to place homeless people in the private rented sector, the Government has warned that it's not acceptable to make "compulsory placements hundreds of miles away".
It follows attempts by some local authorities in highly priced areas, such as London and Cambridge, to house vulnerable people outside their own district or borough.
The warning was issued in a Communities and Local Government (CLG) consultation, published by housing minister Grant Shapps today, which would see councils able to offer homeless families "suitable accommodation" in the private rented sector.
Under the plans, homeless families will be offered an assured fixed-term tenancy of at least 12 months. If the applicant becomes unintentionally homeless again, within two years of accepting the private rented sector offer, the main homelessness duty will recur regardless of priority need.
The plans set out the "suitability of accommodation" used for the purposes of a private rented sector offer and include safeguards such as: a current gas safety record, a valid energy perfromance certificate and ensuring that standards on fire and electrical safety are met.
It also includes a section on the location of the accommodation following some local authorities' attempts - especially in London - to house those in immediate housing need outside their own borough.
The document says: "Homeless households may not always be able to stay in their previous neighbourhoods. However the Government considers that it is not acceptable for local authorities to make compulsory placements automatically hundreds of miles away, without having proper regard for the disruption this may cause to those households."
Newham Council hit the headlines last month after writing to housing associations and councils as far away as Stoke-on-Trent in its bid to re-house families in immediate housing need. It said the Government's decision to cap Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates was making it harder for low-income families to get a roof over their head.
This month, Waltham Forest Council - which has already re-housed 14 families in Luton and five in Margate - announced it was suspending its policy of long distance re-housing.
However, it's not just happening in London. Space shortages in Cambridge have forced the city council to source accommodation for some homeless families in Peterborough, 40 miles away.
Mr Shapps said: "The most vulnerable in our communities who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own deserve a safe and secure roof over their heads, close to their community wherever possible."
Section 208(1) of the Housing Act 1996 provides that local authorities must in discharging their housing functions in relation to homelessness secure accommodation within their own district so far as reasonably practicable.