Three-fold increase in council tenants moved out of their local area in last 10 years, figures show

As part of ITV News' housing series, Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt looks at the rapidly growing practice of councils moving tenants outside their local authority.

Words by ITV News Producer Sophie Alexander

New exclusive data analysis for ITV News shows a shocking rise in tenants being forced to move outside of their local authority and often, to a different part of the country. Stretched councils, faced with a chronic lack of social housing options, are forced to uproot residents in need of temporary accommodation to a new home, sometimes hundreds of miles away. The controversial policy has been condemned by many families, saying it disrupts their entire lives.

Children are forced to start at new schools, often in the middle of important exams, parents have to quit their jobs or travel for miles every day to work, and those affected describe the experience as “isolating” as they have no family and friends in their new area. And while it's often been seen as a London issue, it's increasingly becoming a national occurrence.

Some 95,450 households are currently living in temporary accommodation in England and a quarter of those - 26,170 have been placed outside of their local area.

Source: Jack Shaw / DLUHC

That's the equivalent of 65,686 people living away from their hometown.

That's gone up by 316% over the last decade.

Nadia Zaman, who has three kids under the age of 10, and has lived in north London her entire life, was told by Waltham Forest Council to accept a property in Stoke-on-Trent, over 150 miles away.

Nadia said: "I’d have no family, no support no one, no community. Waltham Forest Council, you have let me down.

Nadia Zaman, a mother with three young children, is just one of thousands of tenants who have been told by their council to accept far away out-of-area accommodation

"They said I’ve made myself intentionally homeless so they’ve taken me off the list," she added.

Waltham Forest have now agreed to help Nadia find private rented accommodation “as soon as possible” although also say “this may need to be outside of Waltham Forest”.

Nadia is not alone, and the practice is not a London-only issue but increasing across England, with huge rises in cases in multiple councils.

The social housing crises stretches far beyond London. Credit: ITV News

In the last three years, out-of-area temporary accommodation placements made by non-London local authorities has increased by 85%, which equates to about 4,710 households affected. 

London's increase, although at a lower rate, shows a rise of 11% over three years and demonstrates how many more tenants are stuck in temporary accommodation with 21,470 households affected by this practice.

The North West of England saw an astonishing rise of 873% in 3 years, with 1,070 households currently living out of area. 

In the North East, 60 households are placed out of area - a 500% rise in three years.

And in the South West, 530 households are away from home - up 152% in the same period. 

Source: Jack Shaw / DLUHC

Karen Beckett has also been on the receiving end of this practice and was forced to move from Waltham Forest 150 miles away to Telford with her three daughters, aged 16, 14 and 12.

She has described the experience as a "tough struggle" with their hometown of London a five-hour coach ride away or a very expensive two-and-half-hour train journey.

Karen Beckett's daughter. Credit: ITV News

Karen said: “I’d never even heard of Telford.

"The day I walked through this door I broke down in tears, for the simple fact that I now feel isolated.”

Karen Beckett says she has been "shut off" from friends and family by the move

Councillor Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Prevention, said: “Waltham Forest Council works hard to provide accommodation for residents who request assistance.

"Our preference is to house every household locally.

"However, demand for housing in London far outstrips supply and we regret it is not always possible to place people in the borough.

“We understand it is a very difficult time for households that find themselves at risk of losing their home, and we work hard to find the most appropriate ways that we can support them.

"We have a duty to ensure that any offer of accommodation is affordable for them and that they have enough left over for everyday essentials such as food and children’s supplies.

“We are forced to rely on the private rented sector to help those in need of assistance, and rising costs combined with the government’s benefit cap policy means that housing people locally in decent accommodation where they can make stable settled homes isn’t always possible, as much as we would like it to be.

"This is not an issue exclusive to Waltham Forest. Councils across the capital have the same challenges, and our approach is in line with that of others.”

In a statement, a government spokesperson said: “Legislation is clear that councils should try to place individuals in their own area in the first instance, or if not possible, as near as possible to the original council area.

“In 2019-20, councils built more affordable homes in one year than the number recorded in the entire period between 1997 and 2010.

“To further increase supply we’re investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, including half for social rent - this will unlock a further £38 billion in public and private investment.”