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Council at centre of Heygate affordable housing fuss to produce homelessness protocol

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Council at centre of Heygate affordable housing fuss to produce homelessness protocol

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Development, Housing

Council at centre of Heygate affordable housing confusion to produce homelessness protocol Council at centre of Heygate affordable housing confusion to produce homelessness protocol

Southwark Council is set to agree a new protocol which it says will help those "most vulnerable to becoming homeless".

The proposal for the protocol sets out how the authority intends to reduce homelessness, and, if approved, the new strategy will involve working with a large number of housing association partners to tackle the "main issues which lead to homelessness".

The council has come under stiff criticism for its affordable housing allocation quotas around the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate.

The council said in 2006 that 50% of the homes of the regenerated estate would be 'affordable'. This figure dropped to 40% in 2007, and had fallen to 0% by 2012.

The reason given for the quota dropping to zero was that developer Lend Lease would establish the level of 'affordable' housing needed with "viability tests".

Southwark's new homelessness protocol sets out how the council and its partner housing associations will take "every measure to prevent evictions" as a result of the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, universal credit and wider welfare reform.

Housing associations which have signed up will only evict as an "absolute last resort" if the tenant refuses to follow the protocol.

Those accepting the support provided will be protected from eviction.

The council says it and its 27 partners will not authorise an eviction warrant if the tenant is seeking help from an appropriate advice specialist such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Southwark Law Centre or the council’s sustain team.

The support package will include helping people to access benefits they are entitled to, to find "suitable accommodation", to seek assistance from specialist teams if they have drug or alcohol problems and to get straightforward debt advice.

Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for housing, said: “This highlights our commitment to protect and support those directly affected by the bedroom tax.

"While the policy alone cannot guarantee that nobody will be ever be evicted, it will go a long way to safeguarding people’s tenancy when they are really struggling – if the protocol is followed and a person takes up our offer of help and support then we will not authorise an eviction warrant. We will continue to push through policies and long-term solutions which protect the most vulnerable people from becoming homeless in Southwark.”

Heygate Estate used to contain 1,013 council-owned properties, which after redevelopment will be replaced with 300 shared ownership homes; 79 homes at 40% market rate rent levels; and a further 212 at 50% levels.

The vast of the site's 2,500 homes will be sold privately by developer Lend Lease.

The Private Eye reported this week that Peter John, the council's Labour leader, was given two £1,600 tickets for the Olympic opening ceremony in 2012 by Lend Lease.

Back in March, Lend Lease also paid £1,250 for Mr John to attend the Mipim 'real estate show' in Cannes.

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