Struggling Waltham Forest residents still being told to leave London

In the last year and a half, Waltham Forest Council told five households to move to Scunthorpe, 150 miles away

By Victoria Munro

Stock image (credit: Pixabay)

In the last year and a half, more than 100 struggling Waltham Forest households were told they would be evicted by the council if they refused to move out of London.

Five households placed in temporary accommodation by Waltham Forest Council were told to move to Scunthorpe, more than 150 miles away, while others were told to go to Stoke-on-Trent, Telford and other unfamiliar locations.

Many of those offered such moves previously told the Echo they were given only 24 hours to accept and were expected to visit their new home for the first time with all their possessions, ready to sign the contract and move in immediately.

Those who refused the offer were deemed to have made their families “voluntarily homeless” and ordered to leave their temporary accommodation anyway.

The Echo first reported on this dilemma faced by the borough’s poorest households in October 2021, revealing that the moves were arranged by a company called Reloc8 UK.

At the time, the council had told 214 households to move into Reloc8 homes, of which 94 agreed and the remaining 120 refused, since it began working with the company in 2019.

A new Freedom of Information request reveals that, in the year and a half since, a further 102 households were asked to make the agonising choice between leaving their home behind or ending up on the streets, of which 66 refused.

As in 2021, Waltham Forest households were most commonly offered a home in Stoke-on-Trent, the same city single mum Nadia Zaman was asked to move to with her three children.

At the time, Nadia told the Echo: “I don’t know where Stoke-on-Trent is. I have got my family and friends here and my childrens’ schools; it’s heart-breaking.

“Whoever decided this, it’s a very shameful act. At the end of the day, they have decided to chuck me out of London.”

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Since the Echo’s first investigation, 56 households were offered Stoke homes, of which only 17 accepted. A further 29 were asked to move to Telford, while others were offered homes in places like Scunthorpe, Walsall, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham and Nottingham.

Reloc8 UK pitches itself to councils as a win-win way to reduce the often multi-million sums spent on supporting residents in costly temporary accommodation each year.

Since councils can only force people out of temporary accommodation when they have found a place to live that is genuinely affordable for them, which Waltham Forest Council has previously argued is often impossible in London, the company arranges tenancies in cheaper parts of the UK.

However, Nadia, who refused to move to Stoke-on-Trent, recently won her legal battle to overturn her eviction, after the Court of Appeal ruled the council had failed to prove it had tried to find her a home closer to the borough. 

Asked to comment on the continued use of Reloc8 UK, the council’s cabinet member for housing Ahsan Khan said: “We work with a number of accommodation providers to find suitable properties outside of London and the surrounding areas, as well as providing residents with a range of support services in their new location. 

“We only offer accommodation in these different locations when the household assessed is suitable for such a move. We make every effort possible to ensure all offers meet the needs of the household, and applicants have the right to request a formal review of its suitability. 

“Households have many and varied reasons for declining offers of accommodation, and these are often highly personal. 

“It is a national scandal that families are unable to afford to live in the areas in which their friends and support networks are based. With rents outstripping rises in benefits, councils have no option but to offer homes outside the capital. 

“Local demand for housing is increasing, and the supply of affordable properties is limited. We are doing all we can to support families by building 1000 new council homes over the next four years. 

“We have also commissioned an independent Housing Commission, chaired by industry experts, to see what more can be done to improve the chronic shortage of affordable housing.”

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