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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Housing the homeless

Sutton Council is planning to tackle the growing problem of homelessness in the borough by converting an empty building into accommodation for 45 families.

Sutton saw a 12 per cent rise in homelessness in 2011/12 - well below the London average of 25 per cent - but the figures are expected to carry on rising as the impact of the Welfare Reform Act starts to bite.

It is growing increasingly costly for the borough to find emergency housing - which is often also very unsuitable for families forced to move long distances from schools, work and familiar neighbourhoods – so councillors will discuss converting the former Oakleigh building near Sutton town centre on 15 October.

Homelessness started to rise in April 2011 when changes to private rented sector housing benefit brought in caps according to property. This forced many people to leave central London for outer boroughs such as Sutton, increasing competition for available property and causing rents to rise.

The situation was made worse when it was decided to lower the top figure renters can receive in benefit, causing even greater competition for flats at the cheaper end of the property market.

The cap on total benefit - £500 for lone parents and couples with or without children and £350 for single people - which will be introduced in April next year is expected to cause even greater amounts of homelessness.

Sutton leads the way in providing help and advice to help people at risk, managing to increase the number of homeless preventions by 33 per cent last year against a London average of a 12 per cent drop.

But overall figures are still expected to rise and the need for expensive and unsuitable emergency bed and breakfast accommodation – often out of borough – is expected to continue to grow.

Converting the former Oakleigh building would greatly reduce the need to use emergency B&B accommodation and, on current estimates, save the borough between £114,000 and £127,000 per year.

posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 10:43 am  

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