Spike in families in temporary housing

More than 2,000 local households currently in emergency shelter

View over Leytonstone

A lack of available housing means many families get moved out of the borough by Waltham Forest Council (credit James Cracknell)

The extent of the housing crisis in Waltham Forest is exposed by new figures on temporary accommodation – now higher than at any time in a decade.

The most recent data, highlighted by housing charity Shelter, shows that 2,238 households were living in temporary accommodation provided by Waltham Forest Council at the start of October last year.

Such households are families who face becoming homeless without the council’s help, and which the authority has a legal duty to house because of their desperate situation.

There are 800 more households from Waltham Forest placed in temporary accommodation compared to this time three years ago, with numbers reaching their highest since Shelter first began collating data in 2005.

Kevin Garvey, explaining Shelter’s policy on the issue, said: “A shortage of affordable accommodation means councils make last-minute decisions about where to put homeless households. Families forced to uproot their lives and move out of their local area represent the sharp edge of a housing crisis.”

The type of temporary housing for families varies, and is often located outside the borough because of lack of space. Shelter’s data shows, of the 2,238 households placed in temporary accommodation by Waltham Forest Council last autumn, 145 were in bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and 144 were in hostels, with the remainder in private, housing association, or council-managed accommodation. Campaigners argue B&Bs are not suitable as accommodation, especially for families with children. Legally, councils must not keep families in B&Bs for more than six weeks.

In 2015, research by Trust for London and New Policy Institute ranked Waltham Forest Council as the fourth most likely local authority in the capital to place people in temporary accommodation outside of its borough, with 56 percent forced to move away.

A BBC Newsnight investigation in February showed families from Waltham Forest being moved as far away as Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. Shakeria Wright, living in a studio flat with her two children, said: “My partner got in trouble and went to prison, and I was evicted by my housing association. I spent the whole day at the council, until they told me they were sending me to a place I’d never heard of. I emailed them [about cramp conditions] but they never got back.”

In a statement on the worsening situation, a council spokesperson said: “Rising rents and an increasing number of evictions in the private rental sector has led to more people living in temporary accommodation. Safe and secure temporary accommodation for residents most in need is our top priority, and whenever possible we place families close to their school and work. However, due to a shortfall of properties we, like many other London councils, have to place some applicants in temporary accommodation outside the borough.

“We’re doing all we can to deliver more homes, including council homes. We’re raising private renting standards and increasing support for tenants. But with £31,582,673 spent in the past year on homelessness in our borough, this is a London-wide crisis and we need more money.”