The impact of the growing homelessness crisis on the finances of local authorities has prompted Enfield Council’s Leader to write a public letter to the government urging immediate action.
Enfield Council along with many councils across the country have been hugely impacted by rising numbers of people asking for help with housing and the cost of living.
These growing demands may severely harm local authorities’ budgets.
The Leader of Enfield Council, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, points out that the government’s ‘mini-Budget’ in September 2022 prompted a surge in interest rates resulting in the near-collapse of the private rental sector market.
Enfield now has the highest number of Section 21 evictions in London and has seen a 41 per cent drop in properties available for rent since 2020.
More people are presenting themselves as homeless to the Council and 290 families from Enfield are living in temporary hotel accommodation at a significant cost to the Council and its residents.
The letter says: “The only long-term solution is to increase housing supply. In the short term, councils need help tackling the immediate emergency facing our residents and budgets.”
The letter, addressed to the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) offers a number of solutions for consideration, ahead of the government’s Autumn Budget Statement, including an increase to the Homelessness Prevention Grant and Discretionary Housing Payments which currently do not adequately fund rental costs. An uplift of Local Housing Allowance rates would also make more housing available, which would mean more families could find accommodation locally, rather than seek cheaper housing outside of Greater London.
“This would be a better use of the public purse than the current system which has a high reliance on expensive and unsuitable emergency accommodation,” the letter states.
Enfield Council has invested considerable resources to bring forward important housing schemes such as Meridian Water as well as council housing building and regeneration schemes. At the same time, underfunding from central government continues to exert pressure across all Council services.
The letter was sent to DLUHC on 8 November ahead of the government’s Autumn Budget Statement and the local government finance settlement.
The letter in full:
Urgent response to the homelessness crisis
I am writing to you regarding the huge financial pressures affecting councils across the country because of the growing homelessness crisis.
In Enfield, this has forced families to live in unsuitable accommodation for prolonged periods. The collapse of the private rented sector since the Government’s ‘mini-budget’ has seen our borough experience the highest number of Section 21 evictions in London, alongside a 41% reduction in available properties.
Consequently, the number of homeless households approaching the Council for help is unprecedented and we currently have 290 families in costly emergency hotel accommodation.
This is just one symptom of the growing housing crisis facing this country, where the only long-term solution is to increase housing supply. In the short term, councils need help tackling the immediate emergency facing our residents and budgets.
Councils urgently need top-up funding via the Homelessness Prevention Grant and Discretionary Housing Payments funding to cover accommodation costs and prevent families from becoming homeless by stopping a build-up of rent arrears.
Second, an uplift of Local Housing Allowance rates would make more housing available for low-income residents locally. This will mean more families will be able to stay close to their support networks, schools, and employment.
We also believe a process like the current ‘DSG Safety Value’ would help, with a shared understanding between your department and councils to ensure a consistent approach and tie financial support to agreed action plans.
This would be a better use of the public purse than the current system which has a high reliance on expensive and unsuitable emergency accommodation and competition for accommodation is driving up price inflations.
Yours sincerely, Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Leader of the Council