Homeless families put up in hotels despite 1,700 houses standing empty in Croydon
In the last of a series of articles on housing reporter Gareth Davies discovers that homeless families are being housed in hotels miles outside Croydon because the shortage of available housing.
A HOMELESS family were put up in a hotel in Middlesex by the council while 1,700 houses stand empty in Croydon, the Advertiser can reveal.
Exceptional demand for emergency housing meant there was "no alternative" but to pay for the family to stay in Wembley, north London, the council has said.
Yet there are enough empty homes in the borough, some which have been vacant for 15 years, to house more than three quarters of Croydon's 2,097 homeless families.
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Jad Adams, chairman of homeless charity Nightwatch, said: "There is clearly a major disparity between the number of people in need of housing and the number of empty homes.
"I urge the council to take radical measures to bring some of these properties back into use.
"If it can't because of the constraints of national legislation, then the council should appeal directly to the Government for a change in law to allow them to act more decisively."
Croydon Council has a statutory duty to house high priority homeless families and initially tries to do so in temporary accommodation.
But the diminishing supply of available homes means it often has to rely on emergency housing solutions.
The cost of putting homeless families in bed and breakfasts, guest houses or hotels has risen steadily in the past four years, and broke £1.4 million in 2009-10.
Most of this emergency accommodation is in Croydon, specifically Thornton Heath.
But exceptionally high demand in September and October 2010 led the council to house a family in the Euro Hotel Wembley, in Brent.
The only explanation provided to the Advertiser as to why the family were housed 20 miles outside the borough, at the cost of £1,330, was that "one of the hotels used locally had vacant sister premises in Wembley".
A council spokesman added: "Our out-of-borough placements are monitored and arrangements made to bring households into or close to Croydon as soon as possible."
At present, the council does not have enough properties, despite the availability of a number of council schemes aimed at encouraging owners to bring their houses back into use.
These include empty property grants of up to £27,000, a landlord bond scheme and enforcement powers if a property has been empty for a period of time.
Peter Brown, the council's director of housing, said: "We are now down to about 2,000 empties and its coming down all the time.
"There are always going to be some but we are doing all we can to bring them back into use."