Redbridge struggles with housing shortage

The number of Redbridge households living in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than a month is increasing as the borough struggles to cope with the housing crisis.

A new Redbridge Council corporate performance report shows that between June and July last year, 167 households spent more than six weeks living in bed and breakfasts.

The government defines bed and breakfast accommodation as either lacking cooking facilities or having shared kitchens and bathrooms.

The figures highlight the growing impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on homelessness in the borough.

Redbridge has the highest eviction rate in London and the second-highest number of households in temporary accommodation per thousand in the country.

Redbridge’s cabinet member for housing and homelessness, Vanisha Solanki, said the problem “comes down” to the government freezing local housing allowance rates, which no longer cover the cost of local rents.

To cut the number of households in bed and breakfasts, the council has procured “150+ self-contained units” in Slough, Berkshire.

Responding to concerns about moving families so far away from the borough at a recent scrutiny meeting, Cllr Solanki said it “isn’t an option we take lightly”.

She added: “It’s a really difficult situation, it’s one of those situations where we wish we could click our fingers and solve the housing crisis but we can’t.

“We are doing everything we can to support those residents in temporary accommodation.”

The cabinet member suggested that some residents report being “happier” in the areas they have been moved to, and affirmed that the policy was an option the council “need to be considering”.

The latest figures show that, just under 600 Redbridge households – half of which are families with children – were living in bed and breakfasts in June last year.

More than 3,000 households from the borough were living in temporary accommodation to prevent them from becoming homeless.

In 2019, the council housed 2,418 homeless households in temporary accommodation, with less than 30 spending more than six weeks in bed and breakfasts.

The council previously hoped to keep the number below 2,500, but during the pandemic, the numbers jumped to nearly 2,879 and the target was increased to 2,900.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter