Homeless families have been sent to live over 60 miles outside of London by two South London councils. Southwark Council housed one family a two-hour drive away in the East Midlands, while Lambeth Council sent at least one family 62 miles away to Canterbury in Kent, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Figures from the last three financial years reveal the two South London councils regularly send homeless people outside of the capital. A total of 157 families have been housed outside of London in the last three years by Southwark – including in towns such as Reading in Berkshire, Maidstone in Kent and Southend on Sea in Essex.
Lambeth Council has sent at least 71 families to temporary accommodation outside of London in the same period. Lambeth refused to provide precise figures where five households or less were placed in a local authority area, so the figure is possibly higher. Lambeth has sent families to places including Medway and Swale in Kent, Slough in Berkshire and Reigate and Banstead in Surrey.
READ MORE:The number of empty homes in every London borough as thousands of people sit on waiting lists
The number of homeless families sent outside of London by Lambeth Council has quadrupled from at least 10 in 2020 to at least 42 as of March 2022. Over the same period the number of families housed in temporary accommodation by the council has increased from 2,548 to 3,200. In Southwark there were 2,361 families living in temporary accommodation at the end of 2021, compared to just 1,644 in December 2019.
Both councils house the vast majority of people they can’t keep within their boroughs in temporary accommodation in nearby outer London boroughs such as Croydon and Lewisham. But figures show last year 14 Southwark residents were being housed an hour away in Thurrock, while the year before 40 families were living in temporary accommodation an hour and half away in Reigate and Banstead in Surrey.
Meanwhile, 12 Lambeth residents were living up to two hours away in Medway and Swale in Kent as of March this year, and a further eight were being housed in Tandridge in Surrey.
A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “Lambeth is facing a severe housing crisis, which means that over 38,000 people are on the council’s waiting list for social housing. Every night, the council provides temporary accommodation for over 3,150 homeless people, at a cost of over £10 million a year, because of the huge gap between the level of demand for accommodation and the housing supply.
“For example, there are more than 2,700 homeless families from Lambeth living in temporary accommodation, who need a two-bedroom or larger home. We do everything we can to find the most suitable accommodation available for homeless families, in the face of a severe shortage of affordable housing.
“However, it is sometimes not possible to find suitable accommodation within Lambeth, and we have to look outside our borough to find accommodation for people who [desperately] need a roof over their heads. Some 85% of temporary accommodation is leased from private sector landlords; we assess the suitability of all private-sector accommodation before we agree to house our people there.
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“The council is determined to build new social housing via its wholly-owned housing company, Homes for Lambeth, and its programme of estate regeneration. But we will still struggle to meet all demand which is part is due to a long-term lack of government investment in social housing.” Southwark Council has been contacted for further comment on the figures.
Cllr Darren Merrill, Southwark’s cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “A severe housing crisis is being compounded by soaring household bills and inordinate rent levels in the private sector which far outstrip Local Housing Allowance rates. This has made the housing market increasingly unaffordable for many in our society.
“People who are left with no choice but to seek help from local authorities find that the accommodation we would like to offer in borough is not always available. In most cases, finding accommodation out-of-borough is always a last resort. However, for those who are fleeing domestic abuse or those who need a move due to personal safety, out-of-borough accommodation is often a preferred outcome for the individual or household.
“We do everything we can to keep households within borough, but the scale of the challenge often prohibits this. In Southwark alone, we have over 17,000 households on our waiting list for a council home, with half of these families including children. We have eliminated the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families because it is not appropriate, but the issue remains with 3,500 households in temporary accommodation.
“All placements are made in line with our published policies including two offers of temporary accommodation which can include accommodation outside of London. Before any placement is made, a full suitability assessment will be conducted to ensure the offer meets the legislative requirements. The vast majority of households remain in and around London, however for those households that are placed outside of London, they will receive full support from our Resettlement Team who provide a personalised service and ensure their individual household needs are met.
“While we push ahead with one of the biggest council home building programmes in London, families need extra support right now. We urge the Government to increase the Local Housing Allowance and strengthen our powers to provide a better deal for renters.”
Have you been moved outside of London by Southwark, Lambeth or Lewisham council? Please get in touch at [email protected] to share your story.