London councils have moved dozens of families to Stoke-on-Trent over the past three years – to help reduce their waiting lists for housing.
At least 56 families have accepted private rental accommodation in the Potteries offered to them by London Boroughs since 2018/19, according to figures obtained by StokeonTrentLive.
But dozens more rejected the 150-mile move north, which would see them leave their friends and community behind – despite the risk of becoming homeless.
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The Labor-run Waltham Forest Council in north-east London has tried to move more households to pottery than any other authority in the capital.
The authority grabbed the headlines over the summer when activists fought to save single mother-of-three Nadia Zamin from homelessness after refusing to move to private accommodation in Stoke-on- Trent.
It has now emerged that this case was far from unique, as Waltham Forest has made extensive use of private accommodation in Stoke-on-Trent in recent years.
Between 2018/19 and 2020/21, the council offered 104 families accommodation in the pottery, 43 of which agreed to relocate. In 2020/21, Waltham Forest also offered 12 families homes elsewhere in Staffordshire, three of which have moved.
Other figures suggest that the council offered the move from Stoke-on-Trent to around 60 additional families in 2021/22, although it is not known how many agreed.
The practice of moving families from London to places such as Stoke-on-Trent is increasingly common in the London boroughs, as rents and waiting lists for housing have reached unsustainable levels.
According to the home.co.uk website, the median market rent in Walthamstow is £ 1,400 per month, compared to just £ 486 per month in Stoke-on-Trent.
Councilor Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing and homelessness prevention at the Waltham Forest Council, championed the authority’s policy of providing local families in Stoke-on-Trent and other remote locations .
She said: “The Waltham Forest Council is working hard to provide housing for residents who ask for help. Our preference is to house every household locally. However, the demand for housing in London far exceeds the supply and we regret that it is not always possible to place people in the village.
“In addition to our duty to provide accommodation to those in need, we also have a duty to ensure that municipal taxpayer money is used sustainably and reasonably and that we can continue to provide essential services. everyday life that all of our residents rely on.
“We need to follow the government’s benefit cap policy when we make a housing offer and we need to take into account the financial situation of each household to ensure that the offer is affordable and sustainable for them.
“The rent freeze that we can pay under the local housing allowance makes it very difficult to find affordable housing in London.”
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Waltham Forest is not the only London borough to have moved families to Stoke-on-Trent.
Hillingdon Council relocated 12 families to Potteries between 2019/20 and 2020/21. The board was unable to say how many offers it had made during this period.
And Brent’s council moved one family to Stoke-on-Trent and another to Staffordshire in 2020/21, with no further offers.
17 other London boroughs said they had not offered any accommodation to households in Stoke-on-Trent or Staffordshire in the past three years.
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Jo Gideon believes the practice of moving social tenants across the country is unfair to both the families affected and the utilities in their new homes.
She said: “It cannot be fair that London boroughs move families to save money and increase the burden on areas like Stoke-on-Trent, which then has a legal obligation to provide continued support. to the most disadvantaged, when we are already overwhelmed.
“Upgrading, at its heart, means people should be able to stay in their local communities, as opportunities are spread evenly across the country. “
It is understood that Waltham Forest and other London boroughs use a company called Reloc8 UK who describe themselves as the ‘experts in moving out of London’.
According to its website, Reloc8 UK has helped 400 households secure short-term rentals over the past three years.
The company says demand for its services has exploded due to the changing property market and the increase in the local housing allowance, which means more families are capped and unable to pay London rents .
Reloc8 finds suitable private rental accommodation in low-rent areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, which the boroughs of London then offer to families.
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