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'Fenland Council can't justify zero council housing'




Private companies have been accused of profiting from England’s deepening housing crisis after an investigation found homeless families crammed into squalid hostels, crime-ridden tower blocks and rundown estates.

Freedom of Information responses from councils in England’s top 50 homeless blackspots reveal that the 156 largest private providers of temporary accommodation collected more than £215m in the last financial year.

On average these firms received £10,000 of public money for each booking.

Fenland District Council is takign action to bring the area's empty properties back into use and are set to employ an officer dedicated to helping with the task. (19123931)
Fenland District Council is takign action to bring the area's empty properties back into use and are set to employ an officer dedicated to helping with the task. (19123931)

One-in-five of the largest private providers supplied homes in the last financial year that led to official “suitability reviews”, sparked by serious complaints about poor conditions, overcrowding or violence.

Families living in accommodation managed by some of the main players in the industry, where mothers and children complain they share cramped, bedbug-infested single rooms, and families say they cower behind their doors while drug-users roam the corridors, account for nearly 70% of all the families in temporary accommodation in England.

Almost one-third of the firms breached guidelines on rent levels, overcharging councils searching for emergency accommodation on 288 occasions over the last financial year.

Five of these over-chargers also negotiated additional financial incentives totalling nearly £500,000 from councils desperate to secure accommodation over the same period.

These findings reveal a shocking picture of the appalling and degrading conditions many homeless families are forced to live in, which sound like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.

The firms were profiting from homelessness, where children sleep on broken beds and the heating is so expensive families say they huddle to keep warm in winter.

We need to ask serious questions about whether it is acceptable for private companies and individuals to profit from homelessness by charging struggling councils vast sums of money to deliver such poor housing,

It’s time the government and local councils invested in three million council homes over the next 20 years, thereby preventing homelessness and circumventing the need for temporary accommodation.

As homelessness rates continue to rise, private providers of temporary accommodation are able to keep demanding higher prices.

We will never be able to get a handle on the crisis until the government addresses the reasons why so many families and individuals are becoming homeless in the first place.

The Homelessness Reduction Act had increased demand without giving councils enough resources to help people at risk of homelessness.

The situation is unsustainable, and we urgently need increased investment in homelessness services.

Come on Fenland, it’s about time you did your bit – you can’t justify zero council housing under these conditions.

J. White,

via email.

Time to requisition Fenland's empty homes

According to Sarah Cliss’s article 'Tackling area’s empty homes' (Fenland Citizen, October 16), Fenland District Council is stepping up its efforts to bring empty homes back into use.

A survey this year estimated that there are over 1,400 homes sitting empty in Fenland – 500 of these have been empty for over six months.

In Fenland there are more than 2,500 couples, families, and single people on the social housing waiting lists.

There are also more than 50 people who are sleeping rough and hundreds more ‘sofa-surfing’.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy of July 14, 2017, which caused 72 deaths, Labour called for the requisitioning of empty homes by Kensington and Chelsea Council to house the survivors who had been made homeless by the fire.

Fenland Council should do the same and requisition the 1,400 homes sitting empty in Fenland so that some of the couples, families, and single people needing accommodation can be found a home.

Requisitioning of empty homes took place in Britain during World War II.

The housing crisis in Fenland is far more severe than during the war.

I believe that it is time to requisition all empty homes in Fenland.

John Smithee,

Wisbech.

n More of your thoughts on page 21.


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