Newham’s housing crisis is ‘only going to get worse’ says council
PUBLISHED: 14:15 06 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:20 06 April 2016
Newham is in the grip of a “housing crisis” that is forcing children, single mums, families and refugees into homelessness, unsanitary accommodation and facing relocation up to 250 miles from London.
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More than 540 residents were rehoused outside of the capital over the last three years – moving as far away as Middlesborough – and the situation is “only going to get worse” according to the council because more people are moving in to the borough while government welfare cuts continue.
The movement of council tenants, many born and bred in Newham, away from their hometown has been dubbed “social cleansing” by campaigners. While state-dependent families are driven out, wealthier families who can afford to rent or buy new private developments are moving in.
Currently just four per cent of families offered accommodation by the council are offered properties outside of London, but the situation appears to be worsening.
In figures obtained by the Recorder through a Freedom of Information request, 27 Newham households were rehoused outside London during 2012. By last year this figure had risen to 244, with some families being placed in Birmingham and Leeds although many end up in Essex.
It tallies with figures acquired by housing charity Shelter that show 54pc of households rehomed between July 2014 and June 2015 were placed outside of Newham, with a further 5pc sent out of London.
The charity’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “Sending families away from their jobs, schools and community support should only ever be a last resort but – particularly in London where councils struggle to house homeless families in their local area – it is sadly becoming far too common.
Campaigners say ‘it is all about profit’
Housing campaign group, Focus E15, which has called for “social housing, not social cleansing” said it was encountering “a lot of people” facing the threat of eviction.
Janice, a spokeswoman for the group, said: “People are being evicted for all sorts of reasons – their landlords want to take back the property or put up the rent.”
She added that people would be left outside council offices on eviction day “for hours” with no information and nowhere to go.
“They are gentrifying the estate.It is all about profit, Stratford is all about profit.
“The properties are unaffordable to the average person. It is most definitely social cleansing.
“There are three tower blocks [on the Carpenters Estate] that are almost empty.
“It just doesn’t make sense.”
“While councils face real pressure from the double blow of cuts to welfare support and a shortage of affordable housing, they should still do everything in their power to keep any homeless family from going through further suffering.
“In the short-term councils must be given realistic budgets to find accommodation locally. But unless the government changes tack and starts building genuinely affordable homes for everyone, not just higher earners, they will only fail more homeless families looking for somewhere safe and secure to call home.”
His comments were echoed by Newham homelessness charity Caritas Anchor House, which received 606 referrals from the council for its 118 bed spaces in 2015, a rise of 102 referrals over the previous year.
Chief executive Keith Fernett, said: “We are seeing a wave of people referred to us who have been evicted by their landlords so they can make more money by going to the open market.”
The charity boss said a “gazumping process” between housing providers was stopping charities and housing associations from providing social housing to Newham’s deprived residents, with private landlords charging higher rents.
He added: “Housing benefits are no longer an entry into the housing market in Newham.”
While rents continue to soar, Newham residents face the additional challenge of having one of the capital’s worst pay rates with more than a third (35pc) of its residents earning less than the London Living Wage.
Local Housing Allowance is £788 pcm for a one-bedroom flat (£182 pw) while the average rent for a one-bedroom flat in Newham is £966 pcm, leaving a shortfall of £178 for renters.
East Ham MP Stephen Timms said: “Ministers ignored our warnings and we are now seeing the effects. They simultaneously cut the money given to local authorities, like Newham, to help residents made homeless.”
Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said a “perfect storm” had been created in London “as a result of the housing crisis and the government’s barbaric welfare reforms”.
He said: “The capital is now unaffordable for many and councils are forced to resort to offering accommodation outside London to homeless residents who need help.
“The government’s Housing Bill has done nothing to address spiralling rents and lack of supply. In fact it will only make a dire situation even worse.”
A Newham Council spokeswoman confirmed the borough was having a “housing crisis”.
She said: “We help thousands of homeless families every year and only a very small amount are offered accommodation outside London. Accommodation is limited so we have to look at where properties are available.
“We have worked hard to create local options so that we can house as many people as possible in good quality, affordable accommodation.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure we have good quality, affordable housing in the borough which is fairly distributed but we have had to make some tough decisions as there is simply not enough housing of a decent standard to accommodate the high number of homeless families who approach us for help.”