Councils spending millions on housing families in temporary accommodation

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Homeless families are spending up to a decade living in hostels – costing councils millions of pounds in the process.

One Lewisham family spent more than 11 years waiting for a permanent place to call home.

They finally moved out of their emergency hostel sometime between 2017 and 2018 after 4,146 days, according to figures uncovered by a Freedom of Information request.

In neighbouring Southwark, the council has spent an eye-watering £7.2 million putting up homeless families in hotels and other emergency housing over the past five years.

More than 97 per cent of that money has been spent in the past two years period alone.

Meanwhile, in Lambeth, the typical homeless family can now expect to wait 476 days before leaving a hotel, more than double the length of time they could expect to spend in such accommodation in 2017/18.

At least five Lewisham families had to stay in hostels or other emergency accommodation which wasn’t a hotel or a B&B for 10 years or longer since 2017/18.

Lewisham council blamed the length of the stays on a lack of suitable temporary housing and privately rented accommodation in the borough.

The amount the council spends on emergency accommodations like hotels and hostels has more than doubled in the past five years. In 2018/19, it was spending £68,805 on such housing, a figure which had ballooned to £143,962 by this year.

In Lambeth, the council is spending £238,500 more on hotels and other emergency housing than five years ago.

One Lambeth family spent more than eight years living in emergency hotel accommodation, before finally leaving sometime between 2020 and 2021.

Cllr Sophie Davis, Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing management and homelessness, said: “We are facing increasing challenges in finding suitable temporary accommodation or private rented accommodation for homeless families as a result of rising rents in the private sector and the local housing allowance being frozen by central government.”

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “London is facing a severe housing crisis, because of the huge gap between the level of demand for accommodation and the number of affordable homes available, and Lambeth is no different.

“The result is that families and young people are living in poor-quality homes or struggling to put a roof above their heads.

“The supply of social housing has reduced by 64 per cent in the past 10 years, meaning that, in 2010/11, we allocated 2,373 council and housing association tenancies, while in 2020/21 we were able to allocate just over 800.”

Southwark Council was contacted for comment.

Pictured top: Lewisham council’s offices in Catford (Picture: Google Street View)

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