Over 1,000 social housing tenants evicted in London

In just one year, thousands of UK social housing tenants have been evicted – but our exclusive investigation has some worrying undertones, such as data collection.

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Over 1,000 social housing tenants in London were evicted from local authority properties last year.

In 2015-16, local authorities reported to government that 6,430 evictions were carried out by court bailiffs – a decrease of 5% compared to 2014-15. This relates to a stock of around 1.61 million dwellings.

In information gained from Freedom of Information requests by 24housing, the scale of the problem does not stop with the eviction figures.

Over 5,600 social housing tenants sought advice from their London council – with some authorities not collecting the data at all.

At the time of writing, 29 of the 33 boroughs had replied to our request.

The borough with the most evictions was Southwark, with 166. Lambeth was just behind them with 115.

The most common reason for eviction was rent arrears, which account for around 600 evictions in London, a massive 60%.

Other reasons given for eviction were subletting, anti-social behaviour (ASB) or simply ‘other’.

The findings raise questions about where social housing tenants will go if they are not able to afford council housing, which is often the cheapest on the market.

More often than not they will move to temporary accommodation where, as 24housing reported last year, the council picks up the tab.

Latest research showed there were now 72,000 households living in temporary accommodation, with the number rising by 45% in the last six years in London.

Brent received the most social housing tenants seeking advice against eviction, with 1,492 people needing the council’s help.

Our investigation found Redbridge Council in London had given advice to social housing tenants from outside the borough, further emphasising the scale of the problem.

A London Councils’ spokesperson said: “Latest figures show 53,201 people were put at risk of eviction in the private rented sector in 2016, and a total of 21,596 private renting households in England were evicted by bailiffs.

“Councils use evictions as an absolute last resort and take all possible steps to avoid them where possible.

“But there continues to be a fundamental supply crisis in London. There are not enough homes, and not enough homes being built, to meet ever-growing demand. In order to begin to tackle the complex housing problems in the capital we must see more homes of a range of tenures being built, and councils being given adequate support and resources to do so.”

After using Freedom of Information requests on councils outside of the capital, we found 1,112 social housing tenants were evicted from just seven local authorities.

Birmingham accounted for 41% of these, evicting 463 tenants.

As with the London Councils, arrears was the main reason for evictions outside of London, with 94% being evicted for this reason.

In Glasgow, 1,550 people social housing tenants sought advice from the council regarding eviction.

More worryingly perhaps were the councils who either did not hold the data on those who came to the council seeking help, or had office functions which meant it would take too much time to retrieve the data.

The London Borough of Ealing said it could not provide the data as the information was on individual diary notes.

Sheffield gave a figure of 46 for those who approached the council seeking help but told 24housing the figure is likely to be a lot less.

This is because they have carried out over 3,500 assessments in the past year, of which 10% were missing a reason for the approach.

The figures, or sometimes the lack of figures, raise some significant questions regarding where people go once they are evicted and the efficiency of local authority backroom functions.

Other backroom functions in councils, for example legal services, have started to be shared between boroughs in London but not anything housing related.

A report last year from Nesta showed eight local authorities using data much more wisely. However, as they noted, “this is just the beginning”.

They note that back office functions in many councils still need to rapidly improve and best practice needs to be shared to help plug the problems.

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