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The Hidden Homeless: 30 years later the headline hasn’t changed in Hackney

PUBLISHED: 04:30 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:52 08 February 2017

Hackney Gazette, September 30, 1986

Hackney Gazette, September 30, 1986

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On September 30, 1986, the Gazette ran this stark front page warning taxpayers were spending millions “to keep the homeless homeless” in Hackney.

We reported that 500 homeless families in the borough were being housed in B&Bs, and the hotel bills were costing Hackney Council more than £2m – enough to build two new housing estates at the time.

The total number living in B&Bs was a “staggering 200 families higher than the year before”, we said.

Cllr Peter Chowney, the council’s housing committee chairman at the time, said: “The tragedy of the situation hits you when you realise that we spent just over £1m recently to build permanent new homes for 85 people in Dalston.”

Thirty years later, the headline has barely changed.

But today the numbers have escalated and Hackney Council is paying £35m a year to keep the homeless homeless.

More than £6m of this comes straight from the council’s coffers and the rest from welfare funding, such as housing benefits, from central government.

The number of families living in emergency housing has also spiralled in the last 30 years.

Today, more than 2,700 families in the borough do not have a home.

The latest government figures show more people in Hackney are living in hostels than in any other London borough.

And Hackney has the sixth-highest number of families living in temporary accommodation in the capital.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville says the three decades since the original Gazette front page have seen a “failed experiment in councils being an enabler in shaping private sector housing”.

“This is the first government since the war that has no social housing funding,” he said. “So all money is going to intermediate housing and home ownership.

“You’ve got that burgeoning housing benefit bill, burgeoning temporary accommodation costs, and no attempt to actually direct money towards types of housing that would solve this issue.”

This story is part of our Hidden Homeless campaign to shine a light on the issue of temporary accommodation in Hackney. Read more news, stats and opinion at our Hidden Homeless microsite – and find out how you can tell us your story or add your name to our manifesto.

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