Councils are obliged house every local person who is ‘unintentionally homeless’. To be clear, that’s a legal definition, it doesn’t just mean rough sleepers, in fact the numbers with a roof for the night but lacking permanent places to stay is many times greater than those sleeping on the streets. Housing is not the main roadblock to ending rough sleeping, the catastrophic underfunding of mental health and substance misuse services and the weakening of social security under this Government play a far greater role.
To be ‘unintentionally’ homeless, you can’t have done something to deliberately try to get the council to rehouse you. Non-payment of rent or providing justifiable reasons for eviction both remove the right to council support under the law. The days when parents could ‘evict’ their kids to try to get them a council house are long gone.
The ‘housing options’ people will have are extremely limited. If you haven’t lived in a local authority long enough you’re required to go back to your previous council area to be housed. If you’re new to the UK, you don’t have any legal right to be housed at all, which just goes to show how many lies are told about migrants.
Most people are put into ‘temporary housing’: hostels, hotels and occasionally houses where the council meet their legal duty while trying to help people find somewhere permanent, typically private rented accommodation.
Due to the substantial growth in homelessness under the Conservatives, temporary housing has become Crawley’s biggest cost-pressure and far too many people have to be housed miles away. This takes money from other services and disrupts families, who struggle to get back to Crawley for school or work and are removed from networks of friends and family.
To tackle this, we are substantially increasing our temporary housing stock over the next few years, including introducing modular housing atop of some council-owned garages, saving money for local services, while ensuring residents are able to remain close to home. No doubt there will be disagreements over where housing is built, but ultimately the benefits will be felt by everyone.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader Crawley Borough Council