Tory government should give proper funding for Enfield Housing
By George A Savva
I have been asked a number of times to write about what is happening in Enfield and what pressures are faced by this authority, as Enfield Council has one of the highest number of council estates and houses in comparison to other London local authorities.
This has an impact on the council’s housing budget dealing with repairs and maintenance in some instances.
The housing crisis caused by this Tory government, which has inflicted over a decade of austerity, puts tremendous strain on councils like Enfield who seek to help high volumes of homeless residents, including families. This a true statement – the facts below speak for themselves.
For context, the position is severely deteriorating across London. The following data returned by 28 councils (including Enfield) showed a worsening situation (to varying degrees) across all measures compared to the same month last year. The data particularly highlights the following challenges: increasing housing need, growing difficulty in securing and retaining suitable accommodation, and rising budgetary pressures:
• Homelessness presentations among responding boroughs were 14.2% higher than the same month the year previous, with a 6.7% increase in the number of households owed a prevention or relief duty.
• The number of families in B&Bs was 45.4% higher, and those in B&Bs for more than six weeks 423% higher than in October 2021.
• The data shows a deterioration in market conditions for councils procuring accommodation: 38.5% fewer PRS units were procured in October compared to the year before, and the number of notices to quit issued for TA was up 237%.
• The total amount of TA remained broadly static (up by 0.9%), however the use of B&Bs for TA *(Temporary Accommodation() was 39.5% higher than in October 2021, while the number of private rented sector (PRS) units in use reduced by 3.2%.
• While average weekly TA rates remained broadly static, increasing by 2.3% (potentially a consequence of the IBAA agreement containing inflation), average incentive rates paid by councils for TA increased by around 15.8%.
• Councils total net deficit on homelessness services is projected to be 20.7% higher in 2022/23 than in 2021/22, while total gross expenditure on TA in the month of October 2022 was 3.9% higher than the same month in 2021.
These patterns are bearing down in Enfield. Changes in the local housing market are compounding pressure locally as we have evidenced an increase in landlord evictions, rising rents that are outstripping any increases in benefits and, an unprecedented fall in the number of new homes available to rent of 72% over the past year.
As an outer-London authority with proportionately cheaper private sector rents, we face the further challenge of families from other boroughs being placed in Enfield by other hard pressed local authorities.
The ongoing homelessness crisis means Enfield Council and other local authorities reluctantly use Bed & Breakfast accommodation and other forms of emergency accommodation, such as commercial hotels, to fulfil their statutory emergency accommodation duties.
We introduced a Housing Advisory Service which invested in upstream prevention which has been successful in preventing many residents from homelessness either by supporting them to remain in their current home or to find alternative private rented accommodation which is becoming increasingly hard.
Enfield Council will only place households in Bed and Breakfast or commercial hotels after exhausting attempts to prevent or delay homelessness and as a last resort. Enfield Council will also provide breakfast and dinner to households to reduce the cost of stays in Bed and Breakfast accommodation and other forms of unsuitable emergency accommodation.
As of October 2022, 86 families were in commercial hotels compared to zero at the same time last year. This reflects the shortage of accommodation available. To illustrate this, we procured 19 properties for prevention and relief of homelessness compared to 59 the same time last year and the net deficit the Council has incurred on accommodation is forecast to increase by at least £1m for 2022/23 which reflects the higher cost of hotel accommodation.
I can assure you that this local authority takes its duty to support those affected by homelessness extremely seriously and are doing all we can to limit the time any resident has to spend in temporary accommodation in any form to an absolute minimum.
The crisis ongoing crisis will continue unless the Tory government allows proper funding to Local Authorities for repair and maintenance in ensuring all our tenants are secure and safe.
Enfield is asking the government to review their housing allocations grants so as to enable Enfield to continue carrying out safety checks to ensure all our estates present no danger to any tenants or leaseholders.
No more Tory cut backs in front line services.