London borough 'suspends' long distance re-housing policy
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Council suspends plan to rehouse families outside London boroughCouncil suspends plan to rehouse families outside London borough
An east London council has suspended its policy of re-housing families long distances away in favour of a more focused approach to support people hit by housing benefit cuts.
Waltham Forest Council - which has already re-housed 14 families in Luton and five in Margate - also recently acquired affordable accommodation in Walsall, 138 miles away.
However, according to the BBC, the council has now suspended the "problematic" policy after fewer than expected families took up the offer. It concluded that re-locating families as far afield as Walsall was a "step too far" and that it had been "largely rejected by residents".
The council - which currently has 21,000 people on its housing waiting list - is understood to now be "more rigorously" considering work, school and family ties and was also looking to join a consortium of London councils aimed at "re-assigning tenants back to their respective boroughs."
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.
Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said that despite there being properties available - and the council providing deposits - the majority of landlords were not taking tenants on housing benefit.
Changes to the LHA, which came in for new tenants last year and for existing tenants from January, has capped housing benefit at £400 for a four-bed home, £340 for a three-bed home, £290 for a two-bed home and £250 for a one bed home.
The announcement of the £400-a-week cap on housing benefit sparked outcry last year with some MPs warning of an exodous of poorer families from expensive areas of London and other cities.
In response to Newham's plans, the housing minister Grant Shapps suggested the local authority was "playing politics in an election season" and said there was a £190m discretionary housing payment fund which councils could apply for to help people hit by benefit cuts.
He said in April: "One of the things that is pretty outrageous is that I’ve just changed the rules to allow local authorities to discharge their homelessness duty using the private rented sector. I’ve been absolutely clear in those rules to local authorities that they must take into account the welfare of the tenants in doing so, which includes not packing them up and sending them off to Stoke."
He said that despite the benefit cuts, rent paid though housing benefit was still available up to the sum of £21,000 a year.
He said: "It can’t be right to have been able, on housing benefit, to live in streets and homes that hard working people are unable to live in themselves. The system is still very generous."