Ealing Council’s cabinet has agreed to a £150m package to buy up housing to ease homelessness in the borough. The move comes as the cost of homelessness in the borough is spiking, with an ever-increasing number of people looking to the council for help.
With jumps in interest rates, more landlords are opting to sell up or put up prices causing many to face homelessness. At the cabinet meeting last week, Cllr Shital Manro said the numbers were threatening to overwhelm the council’s budget if swift and decisive action wasn’t taken.
Presenting the acquisition plan to his colleagues, Cllr Manro said that any purchase made by the council would have to be ‘financially sound’ with revenue from rent covering the costs over time. Explaining the situation facing the council he said: “The cost of homelessness is massive, for instance, using hotel rooms costs us £4,000 a month plus, that’s £50,000 a year and we are currently using 169.”
The council is also currently using 389 bed and breakfasts as temporary housing costing £1,300 at a time every month. He informed the cabinet that the overspent from this kind of accommodation could reach £5m if something isn’t done.
The plan would mean that the council would have more housing stock giving people who are struggling a chance at quality homes. Cllr Manro says that he and his colleague Cllr Bassam Mahfouz have received emails from distressed families who are ‘being moved from one hotel to another every week with their children’.
He added: “This is not the life we want our residents to live and we have to send them all over the country as well.” Cllr Mahfouz added that nearly half of private rentals have been taken off the market in recent years, with him laying the blame squarely on the Tory party and the Liz Truss government.
He stated that in the borough, of the homes that were still on the market, only 1 in 50 could have their rents covered by low-income families or those relying on housing benefits. As part of the proposal, the council will also establish a housing resettlement team to help those who need support to find new homes.
Leader Peter Mason praised the plan, pointing out that it made financial sense and citing the council’s £7.5m purchase of Aspect House which provided 31 housing units the council can now use for people struggling with accommodation. He said that the council was well placed to buy up property as grants and money from bodies like the Greater London Authority and dips in foreign speculation in the London housing market means that homes could be acquired at a ‘deep, deep discount’.