AT LEAST two London boroughs have rehoused council tenants in private rented accommodation in Hastings in recent months due to lack of affordable accommodation in the capital.
Newham Council has found 23 families accommodation in the town since February, and Croydon has two households currently accommodated in Hastings.
Local authorities only have a duty to inform Hastings Borough Council this is happening if the tenants are homeless, meaning it is difficult to obtain the precise number of people placed in Hastings.
Council spokesman Kevin Boorman said that Newham and Croydon have placed 26 homeless people here in the last year, with the total number of new housing benefit claimants from outside Hastings around 80, out of a total of 3,800 new claims.
He added: “There has been an increase in recent months of tenants being placed in Hastings by London boroughs, with the local landlords being paid a premium to accept these tenants.
“This is something that Hastings Borough Council is very much aware of and concerned about.
“We are in contact with the London boroughs and are meeting them shortly to discuss these issues.
“We are also talking to other local authorities and are helping to organise a national seminar on the subject in November.”
Council leader Jeremy Birch said: “We are concerned, naturally, about what is happening. It is not a massive number of people, but it is exactly what I thought would happen because the Government benefit changes are having a particular effect in high rent areas.
“How far it will go, I can’t say, but the numbers are sufficient for us to be concerned.”
He added that an influx from London could potentially put pressure on school places and adult social services.
As well as a premium, believed to be £2,000 in some cases, the London councils are also paying rent directly to the private landlords.
Hastings MP Amber Rudd denied Government policy was to blame, but said: “It’s bad for the people involved and bad for the local community which is trying to regenerate.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful that they are paying £2,000 up front, and I will be taking this up with them. Because they are sending vulnerable people down, it’s even worse.”
She added that there also needed to be better communication between Hastings Borough Council and local landlords, with the council using its discretion to pay rent directly to the landlords in more cases.
However Mr Boorman said: “There are national rules about this laid down by central government. These are very strict, and a council should only consider paying rent direct to the landlord in exceptional circumstances, for example if the tenant is vulnerable and it would help them to secure and/or sustain a tenancy.”
It was reported in the national press a year ago that local authorities in London would be forced to house homeless families outside of the city as a result of rising rents and the introduction of the cap on benefits.