Council tenant moved 150 miles away from home as 26,000 re-housed outside local areas
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
A mother has told how her local council gave her the decision of moving 150 miles away from home or face sleeping on the streets with her children.
A born-and-bred Londoner, Karen Beckett originally lived in a council house with three of her daughters in the borough of Waltham Forest. However, in 2019, she was told by the local authority to move to temporary accommodation in Telford, a town in the Midlands she had "never even heard of".
Ms Beckett is among 26,000 people who have been re-housed outside their local area by councils - a number that's increased by 316% over the last decade.
“I said, 'I can’t up sticks, I’ve got all my family and friends here," Ms Beckett told ITV News, adding that her other daughters, grandchildren and elderly, ill mother live in London.
"But they don’t take social networks into consideration, so it was either me taking this or us being homeless on the streets.”
Karen Beckett says she has been "shut off" from friends and family by the move
After funding and organising the move herself, Ms Beckett said realising how isolated she was made her "break down in tears" the moment she entered her new home.
Two years on, Ms Beckett rarely sees her unwell mother - they are separated by a five-hour coach ride or a relatively expensive two-and-half-hour train journey.
Nadia Zaman was given a similar ultimatum by Waltham Forest Council - move to the Midlands or risk making yourself "intentionally homeless".
Nadia: "Waltham Forest council, you've let me down"
“I’d have no family, no support, no community," she said.
Ms Zaman, who has three children under the age of 10, said because she refused to move abruptly without viewing the house, she was kicked off the council's housing list.
“They said I’ve made myself intentionally homeless... Waltham Forest council, you have let me down,” she said.
Waltham Forest have now agreed to help Ms Zaman find private rented accommodation “as soon as possible” although “this may need to be outside of Waltham Forest”.
Ms Zaman and Ms Beckett are not alone, and although the practice is seen as a London issue, it is increasing across England. There have been huge rises in cases in multiple councils.
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.”