Why are Enfield residents spending years living in temporary accommodation?

More than 11,000 Enfield residents live in temporary accommodation, including 5,000 children – but this accommodation is anything but temporary.

Brickfield House (pictured) is a converted office block on Southbury Road. This converted block contains well over a hundred temporary accommodation “units”, most of which are smaller than the minimum size normally allowed for a single person, yet these units often have families living in them. People living in this block report high levels of anxiety. Some say the noise makes it hard to sleep and that the cramped rooms easily overheat. Parents and children often need to share a bed. 

While such accommodation might be acceptable as a stopgap in an emergency, the fact is that the average stay in temporary accommodation in Enfield is two and a half years; the Enfield Independent recently reported that one resident had been in temporary accommodation for 21 years …so far.  

This type of accommodation is also expensive; last year Enfield spent over £66 million on temporary accommodation – this accommodation would typically cost less than half this amount to rent on the open market.  

Temporary accommodation usage is high in Enfield because there are not enough affordable homes.

Many families can no longer afford private sector rents in Enfield due to rent increases, low incomes, and welfare reforms. However, whilst welfare reforms have had an impact, it’s important to recognise that the number of people in Enfield living in temporary accommodation was high even before the welfare reforms started – in 2008 there were 3,200 households in temporary accommodation, close to the current 3,410, and in 2010 Enfield’s use of temporary accommodation was the 4th highest in England.

Enfield has repeatedly missed housing targets which has increased the need for temporary accommodation.

Enfield has missed its overall housing targets for a number of years. The Government recently reported that Enfield had only achieved 77% of its overall housing target over the last three years. Enfield’s performance on this measure is amongst the worst in London.  

Enfield has also missed targets for affordable housing. Since 2010 Enfield’s target has been that 40% of new housing should be affordable, but since then only about 28% of new housing has been affordable.  This under delivery not only limits the supply affordable homes but also removes a price-anchor that helps regulate rents in the private sector.   

There are a number of reasons why Enfield has missed housing targets, two of which are discussed in below.

The negative impact of Permitted Development (PD)

PD allows developers to convert offices into flats without going through the normal planning process, which means developers can avoid the requirement to create affordable housing. This has led to a loss of around 200 affordable homes in Enfield (so far).  Furthermore, the application fees for PD conversions are so low that some developers make speculative applications which never come to fruition – however – the council still includes these speculative applications in its planning for housing delivery. PD makes it difficult to plan housing delivery and when things do not happen as planned, targets get missed.    

Missed opportunities to create affordable homes on public land

Enfield’s Housing Renewal Schemes redevelop publicly owned land and there’s been some good quality housing created through these schemes. However, many of the affordable homes created via these schemes has simply replaced the affordable housing that was already there, so has not increased the overall stock of affordable homes.  Furthermore, some of these schemes appear have either reduced the overall number of homes on a site (e.g. Parsonage Lane) or reduced the number of low rent affordable homes (e.g. Highmead Estate).

Non-green belt land that is suitable for large scale house building is scarce in Enfield – this is why it is absolutely essential to make the most of the public land that is available.

The Council can help reduce the time Enfield residents spend in unsuitable and expensive accommodation by:

  • Recognising that Enfield faces an Affordable Homes Emergency.
  • Closing Permitted Development loopholes by enacting an Article 4 direction. 
  • Prioritising affordable housing targets in planning and decision making, particularly where the development is on publicly owned land.
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