About Marc Francis

Marc leads on all of Z2K’s campaigning. He was formerly the Housing & Neighbourhoods Policy Advisor at Save the Children and before that, Public Affairs Manager at Shelter, leading its successful campaigns for mandatory Tenancy Deposit Protection by private landlords and against the use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

Targeted Affordability Fund proves to be little more than a fig leaf

Shelter’s excellent new research last week reveals how unaffordable private renting is becoming for those unable to work and therefore dependent on Housing Benefit.  It finds that, in one in four parts of the country, a small family living in a modest two-bedroom home, will have to come up with an extra £100 a month to make up the shortfall in their rent.  That shortfall can only be paid from what would otherwise be spent on food or clothing for their children.  The corresponding figure for single people or couples in a one-bedroom home is one in five.  Deservedly, this research featured prominently in Sunday’s Observer.

We all know how badly the Benefit Cap hits private tenants.  But in Z2K’s experience, the coalition Government’s caps on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates of Housing Benefit are almost as bad.  Between 2011 and 2013, our Next Door team advised nearly 300 families hit by those caps in Westminster alone.  And the move from the median of local rents to the 30 percentile and subsequent “freeze” in those rates since 2015 have made that situation even worse.  As Shelter’s research shows, this toxic cocktail of policies has ratcheted tighter and tighter on the finances of the nation’s poorest households. Continue reading

DWP flip flops on Universal Credit & DHP guidance

There’s so much that’s wrong in principle with the Government’s Benefit Cap on Social Security that we sometimes overlook the way it is being implemented.  But with roll-out of the lower £440 a week cap (for families in London) now complete, we are beginning to see the harsh realities.

Last week, I met a lone parent served with a Notice of Seeking Possession by her local authority landlord after falling into rent arrears because of the lower cap.  Her benefits were already capped at £500 a week, leaving her to pay nearly half her rent of £120 a week.  Since 7th November, she has been required to pay £105 a week – an impossible ask.  Hopefully, possession proceedings with be withdrawn and a Discretionary Housing Payment awarded to help her meet this shortfall.  Continue reading

Westminster renews its drive to shift homeless families out of London

Not for the first time, Westminster City Council hit the headlines last week for the way it is dealing with homeless people.  In a report to the outgoing Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business & Economic Development, officers requested authorisation for a new Private Rented Sector Offers Policy, and Accommodation Procurement Policy and an Accommodation Placement policy – all to be implemented with effect from 30th January.

Taken on its own, the second of these three new policies is relatively anodyne – most London boroughs are having to source temporary accommodation (TA) out of their areas.  However, the first envisages a significant increase in Westminster’s use of its power to discharge its duty to statutory homeless households through the offer of accommodation in the private rented sector, and the third creates three bands for TA: Continue reading

The challenges and opportunities facing Homes for Londoners

city-hall-att2_(660x440)_(2)Yesterday marked the inaugural meeting of the Board of Homes for Londoners – the Mayor of London’s body to oversee housing policy, strategy and delivery.  Chaired by Mayor himself, Homes for Londoners is the fulfilment of one of Sadiq Khan’s key election campaign pledges.

At this stage, however, it is not clear whether it will be any different at all from Boris Johnson’s original Homes for London Board that performed the same role in his second term.  Indeed, while there are obviously new faces, the Board’s structure remains the same with appointees from London Councils, the property sector and big housing associations.  At this stage, neither social tenants nor the Capital’s homeless households are directly represented.  The Mayor should co-opt both a tenants’ rep and someone from a homelessness charity onto the Board before it meets next. Continue reading

Families illegally placed in B&B on the increase

380_Image_child_povertyLast week’s official homelessness statistics revealed that the number of homeless families illegally placed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation beyond the six week legal limit has risen to 1,140.  This is the first time in a decade the number has been this high.  Astonishingly, three London boroughs are alone responsible for around one-third of those breaches of the law.  At the end of June, Croydon had 168 families in B&B longer than six weeks, Harrow had 120, and Redbridge had 132.

Unheralded research Shelter published last year reminds us why prolonged stays in B&B have been outlawed for families with children.  This is no place for a child recounts the experiences of twenty homeless families placed into emergency accommodation by their local authority.  In it, the parents describe the impact of the lack of space on their children, and the particular difficulties caused by having to use shared facilities at mealtimes and bedtime.  Many of those interviewed were clearly also worried about the safety of their children. Continue reading