The London boroughs of Merton and Sutton joined forces to open an innovative ‘property shop’ to help residents in temporary accommodation or who are at risk of becoming homeless.
The official opening of Housing Solutions took place on Tuesday 18 July and was attended by Councillor David Williams, Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Sean Brennan, Leader of Sutton Council and Mark Meehan from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Housing Solutions is the result of a partnership between Merton and Sutton Councils and a successful joint bid to the government for £200,000 to fund a range of initiatives to help prevent homelessness.
Designed to look like an estate agent, the shop is located at 114 London Road, Morden and offers assistance to households threatened with homelessness to avoid them having to apply to the council as ‘homeless’.
In an informal atmosphere, customers can discuss their concerns and find out about housing options after being referred by Merton or Sutton Council. It is hoped that Housing Solutions will also attract landlords with decent homes to rent on a long-term basis.
Councillor Diane Neil-Mills, Merton’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said:
“The aim of the project is to utilise the private rented sector to reduce households in temporary accommodation and, more widely, to reduce the stigma of homelessness.
“Housing Solutions is one of a number of creative preventative measures used by both boroughs to reduce homelessness.”
Councillor Colin Stears, Sutton’s lead councillor for housing, said:
“Homelessness is not a respecter of age, class, race or borough boundaries and could affect anyone. Many people see dramatic changes in their situation if they become estranged from their partner or family or are suddenly made redundant.
“Sutton Council has an excellent track-record in dealing with homelessness and I am delighted that we are building on this success by working with Merton.”
Both Merton and Sutton councils are actively encouraging private landlords to let their properties to tenants who may be claiming benefits. A number of advantages are available to landlords depending on the length of tenancy being offered. Benefits range from fast tracking housing benefit and providing deposits to cash incentives for longer-term tenancies.