Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Government needs joined-up thinking on Housing

I was very cross to read statements from Housing Minister Mark Prisk that he intends to ‘get tough’ with Councils that place homeless households in bed & breakfast accommodation for longer than six weeks. What is so scurrilous about this statement is that no local authority chooses to place families in B&Bs: the negative social impact on the families involved is obvious, but it is also incredibly expensive. In these austere times why on earth would councils choose to use the most expensive temporary housing option? It leaves even less funds available to accommodate the increasing number of people presenting as homeless.

The reason that councils in London are increasingly having to rely on Bed & Breakfast accommodation is because there is nothing else available. And the current lack of alternative temporary or permanent accommodation in the capital is the direct result of Government policy. Policy meant to depress rents in the private sector has had exactly the opposite effect in London so there is less affordable private rental accommodation available overall. Any private sector accommodation that is affordable is fiercely fought for by councils desperately competing to find places for those households presenting as homeless. And the increase in people finding themselves homeless and thereby increasing demand for temporary and permanent accommodation is also the result of Government welfare policy.

But then to add insult to injury, the Planning Minister Nick Boles pulls the rug from under our feet and reduces the powers of local authorities to ensure affordable housing is built! By allowing offices to be converted to residential units under permitted development rights we lose all s106 funding that would have been negotiated when a planning application was required. And as, since the HCA grant has been significantly pared back, s106 obligations are now the main delivery vehicle for councils to secure affordable housing, it is the equivalent to having an arm cut off in our fight to increase the amount of social housing in London. Not to mention also losing s106 funding to ensure that the new residential units have the local infrastructure support to make them desirable places to live.

On behalf of Sutton Council I have written to both Ministers on these matters, and received unhelpful responses. But perhaps what they really should be doing is talking to each other.

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June 10, 2013 - Posted by | Opinion | , ,

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