The UK’s most expensive borough to live in, the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, plans to send some of its most vulnerable residents to live outside London because the soaring property market means it can no longer afford to house them.
The Conservative authority, where the average home costs £1.4m, will spend £10m buying properties outside the borough for people who have been made homeless. It is searching for 39 homes in outer London, the M25 corridor and the home counties suitable for temporary accommodation, used by people who often suffer physical or mental health problems and are left without a roof over their heads.
The policy has been fiercely criticised by housing activists, who say the use of temporary accommodation to house vulnerable tenants will isolate them from vital community support.
Nick Paget-Brown, the council leader, said: “In an ideal world we would like to buy properties in Kensington and Chelsea, but the numbers simply don’t stack up. We could only buy a handful of homes here. By looking further afield, we can purchase significantly more, making a huge difference to those on our waiting list.”
Neighbouring Westminster city council has spent £3.6m buying 25 homes in Thurrock, Essex, for temporary housing, bringing the number of Westminster-owned homes located outside London to about 100. The latest batch bought by the council in Grays, 25 miles east of central London, cost £183,000 each on average, compared to the almost £1m an average house in Westminster costs. The new strategy comes amid plans to tear down flats in Chelsea which the council currently uses for temporary accommodation. They are likely to be replaced in part by private apartments fetching up to £4m each, in a scheme that has been opposed by the comedian Eddie Izzard and the deputy Labour leadership candidate Tom Watson.
A spokesperson for Westminster city council said: “We do not rule out having to go further afield and will consider the M25 area and southern counties.”