Westminster Council illegally housing families in bed and breakfasts

More than130 families are being housed illegally by Westminster City Council in bed and breakfast accommodation as the housing crisis bites.

The number of families put up for more than six weeks in B&Bs, the legal limit, has almost quadrupled in just six months. In April the number stood at 36.

The sharp rise in figures this week saw the leader of the Labour opposition blast Westminster’s housing policy as not up to the job, as the housing benefit cap appears to force more and more families over the brink.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said former housing minister Grant Shapps had ordered the council in April to stop housing families in B&Bs for longer than six weeks, and had asked central government to help them doing so.

Yet the depth of the crisis shows no sign of abating, as more than 35 new homeless families joined the list of those left in B&Bs beyond the legal time limit in the last two months alone.

Westminster is housing homeless families up to 50 miles away in Grays in Essex, Maidstone in Kent, Bletchley in Buckinghamshire and Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

More than 2,100 people overall are in temporary accommodation in Westminster, according to its own figures, and the authority accepted one-and-a-half times as many homeless cases in the six months to September as it did over the same period last year.

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Cllr Dimoldenberg said: “When will the government and Westminster Conservatives acknowledge that their housing and economic policies are not working? The council continues to break the law and successive housing ministers have allowed them to get away with it.

“It is simply not acceptable for the council to continue to place homeless families in B&B accommodation for more than six weeks.

“The Westminster housing crisis is getting deeper and the situation for the homeless is getting worse with every month that passes. There is a need for more homes at prices that people can afford.”

The housing crisis extends to key workers too. Cllr Dimoldenberg added that “many essential workers will simply be priced out of central London” as on average, rents in the private sector in Westminster swallow up 56 per cent of people’s pay.

But Cllr Jonathan Glanz, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing and property, said: “Reducing the use of bed and breakfast accommodation is a priority for the council.

“However, the current demand for housing is outstripping the available supply.

“We have ambitious plans in place to increase in and close-to borough supply, but we need to work with central government to find a way forward in the longer-term on temporary accommodation.

“We are committed to increasing levels of affordable housing in the borough and supporting our residents into work.”