A report before Lewisham’s Cabinet shows the authority spent £109 million on temporary and emergency accommodation over four years from 2016/17 to 2019/20.
The figure starkly reveal the cost to taxpayers resulting from a lack of council and social housing.
The report states: “As at the end of September 2020, almost 2,500 households were in Temporary Accommodation arranged by Lewisham, of which 760 households were in nightly paid accommodation. This is the most expensive and insecure form of temporary accommodation.”
Neighbouring Greenwich are paying for over 1400 households in emergency accommodation and papers uploaded yesterday revealed the latest overspend above and beyond already high levels of budgeted spend:
Lewisham agreed to purchase a former Lewisham pub. The Sydney Arms is to provide 16 rooms. In 2020 the GLA was successful in a bid to secure £57.8m capital and £8.9m revenue funding from central government rough sleepers. However this barely scratches the surface of overall numbers in need and related costs.
This purchase raises the question of whether plans like 49-room HMO at the Antigallican pub in Charlton – submitted last week – could go the same way. Or any number of other pubs being bought and then seeing submissions for mass HMOs.
Costing everyone – well, almost everyone
Inside Housing reported in 2018 that in England alone, councils spent a total of £3.87bn on temporary accommodation. That was a 56 per cent increase. Since then demand in Greenwich and other London boroughs has rocketed further. By June 2020, 98,300 households were in temporary accommodation across the country. That’s up 14.0% on June 2019.
Decades of extremely limited council housebuilding under all political parties – as population numbers quickly grew – have hit public housing availability hard, which is then compounded by right to buy. Just 30 per cent of income derived from right to buy can be spent on any given new housing project. That then requires partnering with other organisations such as Housing Associations to fund the other 70 per cent or buying homes off the market. The latter option provides far less social housing – but is one that many councils including Greenwich have overwhelmingly adopted.
In addition, a large number of council estate redevelopments have seen a net loss in social homes. Public land has also been sold rather than developed in partnership with Housing Associations.
Direct grants for housebuilding from central government also lag far behind levels needed to address demand. Taxpayers still end up paying for housing but instead of funding high quality new homes, money heads towards private landlords at far higher monthly rental costs.
The lack of public housing has benefitted private landlords alongside existing homeowners as council purchases sustain high house prices. Numbers of homeless households are expected to increase further in coming months.
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