Currently, the Borough of Camden houses approximately 500 households (of which 370 are families) in temporary accommodation (TA). These include hostels in Camden as well as nightly rented homes outside Camden. Increasingly, Camden has been offering private rented housing in other London boroughs primarily because of the high cost of private rented accommodation in Camden. However, many of the family households in TA have turned down offers in the PRS. Camden commissioned LSE London to explore some of the reasons. Kath Scanlon and Fanny Blanc published the report, entitled ‘Barriers to acceptance of housing offers by families in temporary accommodation’, which documents their findings in hopes that these will inform future approaches to service delivery, management strategies, and action plans. Click here to read the full length report.
Most of the families interviewed reported that their main concern was the insecurity associated with the private rented sector. This included a perception of being at the whims of private landlords who could decide to evict them at any time which meant that they would lose their place in queue on the housing register for council housing in Camden. In some instances, waiting in the queue was likened to a period of incarceration, time served entailed earning a council flat; accepting other types of housing equated to time lost.
Most of the families interviewed, as most TA residents in Camden, were not originally from the UK. In some cases, this meant that they did not have a clear understanding of their housing options primarily because the social-housing vocabulary for housing allocation is jargon-ridden; the term ‘allocation’, the report highlights, is rarely used in normal conversation. In other instances the households’ do not have much previous experience with the housing market, some did not know what housing associations are or what they do; even what private rented housing.
The report also pointed out another major reason for rejecting private rented accommodations was the way the council explained. The borough often sends out letters conveying information about housing decisions or policy changes. This may not be the most effective approach seeing as our research revealed issues with understanding jargon or the likes. The researchers suggest that personal contact was a more effective method of communication, either in person or over the phone with a council officer.
Finally, the report recommends that Camden should consider a targeted, individual approach to finding families living in TA suitable settled accommodations. This may be feasible given the small number of households in TA. Moreover, there should be identified case workers able to develop trusted relationships including regular contact with households. While developing such a programme may have its costs, these would be offset in the long term given the potential benefits primarily for the families as well as the council.