More and more families will be trapped in short-term housing, away from schools

(28 February, 2019) Editorials

The council’s Labour administration will build 11,000 new homes by 2043, but we won’t feel the benefit of these new homes for a generation

28155Members of Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth demonstrate in Southwark Council's Tooley Street office.

Unwelcome morning alarms, breakfasts cut short, missing keys and that sinking feeling when you see your bus driving away without you: the trials of the morning commute are familiar to everyone.

This is especially true for parents attempting to feed, dress and bundle their children off to school and make it into work in time.

So imagine the nightmare lived by homeless families whose only option is often to move into temporary housing outside Southwark, far from school and far from their jobs and other responsibilities, while they hope a permanent home will become available.

Parents who have already suffered the desperation of being made homeless now tell us they are stuck spending hours a day on buses travelling back into Southwark from the outer reaches of London.

They are spending money they can ill-afford on a school run so lengthy they even have to cut down their working hours; making their financial position all the more precarious.

This week’s council budget papers for 2019-20 show the impact of £8m cuts central government has made to Southwark’s budget.

On top of having to make savings and find cash elsewhere, the council is also left picking up the pieces of national policy failures beyond its control – from Universal Credit pushing more people into debt, to right-to-buy which has exacerbated the housing shortage.

Southwark Council’s temporary accommodation costs are expected to rise – especially as the Aylesbury demolition gathers pace.

A significant proportion of the people who are given housing in the borough are in empty homes on the estate.

Many have branded them uninhabitable due to long-running heating and hot water breakdowns, pest infestations, and needles and other drug paraphernalia blighting communal stairways and lifts.

When these blocks are eventually demolished, there will be even less housing available for those in crisis and more people ending up scattered elsewhere.

The Lib Dems say cracking down on the number of empty homes across Southwark, like second-homes or homes in-between lets,  is a no-brainer. Labour says building more council homes is the only real solution.

In its election manifesto, the council’s Labour administration committed to building at least 1,000 more council homes by 2022, and 11,000 by 2043. We won’t feel the benefit of these new homes for a generation.

In the meantime, more homeless families will be trapped in short-term housing far away from work and school, and far away from the borough they still call home.

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