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London borough defends approach after report that family face eviction for failing to attend property viewing 200 miles away

Councils must balance the interests of those in housing need with that of taxpayers, the London Borough of Waltham Forest has said after becoming embroiled in controversy over a family facing homelessness.

The Daily Mirror reported that a family with three children faced eviction by the council from their temporary accommodation in Lewisham because they failed to attend a property viewing in Stoke-on-Trent some 200 miles away.

Mother Monica, who did not give her surname, said the family wished to stay in London.

Housing Action Southwark and Lewisham, which is supporting the family, said in a tweet to Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy: “Monica's family does qualify for legal aid and we have helped her to get a lawyer. But we hope that you can also support and advocate for the family as well, it would be much appreciated. We hope to hear from you soon!”

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Louise Mitchell, Waltham Forest’s cabinet member for housing and homelessness prevention, declined to comment on the specific case involved.

She said the council’s preference was to accommodate people locally but “demand for housing in London far outstrips supply and we regret that it is not always possible to place people in the borough”.

Cllr Mitchell added: “Alongside our duty to offer accommodation to those in need, we also have a duty to make sure council taxpayers’ money is being used in a sustainable and reasonable way and that we can continue to provide the essential day-to-day services on which all our residents rely."

Waltham Forest had to follow the government’s benefits cap policy and consider the financial circumstances of each household to ensure offers were affordable and sustainable for them.

"The freeze on the rent we can pay under the Local Housing Allowance makes it very challenging to find affordable accommodation in London,” Cllr Mitchell said.

Mark Smulian

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