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HomeHarrow CouncilDozens of Harrow households saved from homelessness but council social housing plan...

Dozens of Harrow households saved from homelessness but council social housing plan slammed by opposition

Using private landlords stopped 45 households from becoming homeless in Harrow during the final six months of last year, the council has revealed. But the opposition suggested a lack of social housing is the ‘crux of the problem’ and slammed the council’s current targets as ‘appalling’.

There are currently more than 300 families being housed in temporary bed and breakfast (B&B) or hotel rooms, with a further 800 or so living in expensive temporary homes. Many of these properties are located outside of Harrow, meaning they are living miles away from school, work, friends and family.

Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for housing, councillor Mina Parmar, highlighted the borough’s ‘challenging demands’ for housing at a recent Cabinet meeting (February 15). Dubbed the ‘B&B elimination strategy’ the council claims it is using private landlords and new social housing to prevent residents from becoming homeless in the first place.

Cllr Parmar said: “A key part of this is working directly with landlords to find solutions and by finding alternative private sector accommodation before eviction happens. This approach has resulted in 76 per cent of households, in ‘quarter 3’ of last year, during the prevention stage being successful at either remaining in their homes or finding alternative, settled accommodation before being evicted or excluded from their own-home.”

During the latter half of last year, the council claims finding settled homes in the private sector for those in temporary accommodation prevented 25 households in ‘quarter 3’ (2023/24) from becoming homeless or needing temporary accommodation, as well as a further 20 households in ‘quarter 2’.

Council figures show that 324 households were living in B&B’s at the end of quarter 3 – an 11 per cent increase from quarter 2 – but Cllr Parmar called this ‘much lower’ than the average of 30 per cent seen across the other London boroughs. The portfolio holder also pointed to a number of affordable housing developments set to take place this year on council-owned sites.

Cllr Parmar said: “Byron Quarter and Poets Corner […] have the potential to deliver over 200 affordable homes across all phases of development on these sites. Cabinet also agreed to recommence work on Grange Farm ‘Phase 2’, which would make a significant contribution to what’s affordable and what’s social rented homes in the borough. This is an addition of 50 homes on council owned sites that are due to complete in 2024/25.”

However, opposition councillor, Cllr Graham Henson, slammed the numbers as ‘frankly appalling’ and said those residents impacted are having their ‘life chances reduced’ by not having a permanent home. He blamed the ‘significant increase in rents’ during the current cost-of-living crisis as the reason for a growing reliance on more costly accommodation.

Cllr Henson said: “I don’t doubt the pressure that is on Harrow at the moment, it’s an unprecedented pressure. But the statistics showed that there’s people struggling to find suitable accommodation and that’s the people I’m concerned about.”

Cllr Henson said residents are being ‘shunted around’ without a place to call home, suggesting the ‘chronic lack of social housing’ is the real issue and criticised the council’s solutions as ‘a sticking plaster’. He also blamed the scrapping of a landlord licensing scheme as the reason for the council’s ‘inability to intervene’ when damp or rats get into properties.

Cllr Parmar assured the councillor that all of the residents are ‘safe and living in safe homes’ and all of the necessary safeguarding measures are in place. There will be further updates throughout the year on the borough’s affordable housing developments- that are set to complete or start over the next 12 months.

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