Croydon racks up £1.5m B&B bill for homeless families
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
Charity calls for rent cap as 600 families face being made homeless
Croydon Council shelled out more than £1.5m in the first seven months of this year to one B&B provider as it came under fire for housing families in emergency accommodation over the statutory six-week period.
The figure was revealed in a BBC Newsnight investigation, which found that some of the families were being housed in squalid and overcrowded conditions at great expense to the taxpayer.
One of the B&Bs Croydon was using – owned by hotel chain Eurohotels - was criticisied in the programme for having broken windows, damp and rodent infestations. Some 17 people were also sharing just one kitchen, while children were shown to be eating dinner and doing homework on a bed because of the lack of space.
Housing lawyer Jane Pritchard is threatening to take the council to court to force it to move them somewhere else. She said: “The minute Croydon Council put someone in a B&B and are not positively looking for an alternative for them, they are acting unlawfully.”
Former housing minister Grant Shapps had written to the 20 worst offending authorities back in April warning the practice was “unacceptable” and offering support to those local authorities.
Between January and March this year the number of homeless families in B&B accommodation (with communal facilities) had risen to 3,960 from 2,750 a year ago.
Jon Rouse, chief executive at Croydon Council, said the complex featured in the programme was being checked by environmental health officers once a week.
He rejected the accusation the council wasn’t looking for alternative accommodation for families. He said: "We are concerned. But we are behaving legally. We review all cases on an ongoing basis and clearly as we're coming up to that six week threshold, we're particularly concerned to see if we can identify alternatives for those individual households."
He said, however, caps to housing benefit were making the situation worse.
“The introduction of caps on the local housing allowance rates means less private rented stock is available to people on benefits," Mr Rouse said.
"The second problem is that people who would have moved on from the private rented sector to buy their own home, haven't done so. And so again that causes a lack of availability at the lower end of the housing ladder."
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