Temporary housing for families, refugees and ex-cons condemned as ‘perverse’
FIVE bed and breakfast hotels have banked an astonishing £3.3 million from Birmingham City Council last year for providing rooms for the homeless – because of the housing crisis.
The Norfolk Hotel in Hagley Road, Edgbaston, received the most taxpayer cash in 2017/18, with its parent company netting a staggering £1.1 million.
Smithy’s Hotel and Ethan B&B, both also on the Hagley Road, Rugby House in Slade Road, Erdington, and Bluebell Guest House, in Yardley, also head annual spending for emergency accommodation.
In total, the five B&Bs have received £3.34 million from Birmingham City Council’s homeless services – a situation described as “appalling” by city MPs.
Together, the businesses pro- vide emergency housing for the city’s homeless and those on the verge of homelessness, including young families, ex-prisoners, people fleeing domestic violence, drug addicts, refugees and alcoholics.
It comes at a time when more than 160 families are currently stranded in Birmingham B&Bs and hotel rooms for more than six weeks, with thousands more staying for short periods before moving on.
Some B&Bs are now earning so much in council payments for homeless people that they seemingly no longer bother taking tourists or business visitors.
One staff member at Ethan B&B, who answered a call from the Birmingham Post, said: “We are always full, we don’t take telephone bookings anymore.”
Despite being the highest earner from the council, the Norfolk Hotel, part of Beans Housing Ltd, receives just a 1.5-star rating on the TripAdvisor review web- site, with some unknowing customers complaining about conditions.
MPs whose constituencies include the B&Bs have called for a swift and improved response to Birmingham’s homeless crisis.
Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley, said: “It seems perverse to me for the council to still be doing this in such big numbers.
“We need to use some of the millions we are spending on B&B accommodation to fund decent charities and other organisations who can create decent alternatives.
“We have been talking about this problem for years and we are still saying the same things while more people are affected. That shows a real lack of foresight.”
The use of B&B accommodation as a way to tackle homelessness has now become routine rather than an exception, says Labour’s Preet Gill, whose Edgbaston constituency includes the Hagley Road hotels.
“If the council persists in regularly using B&Bs like Smithy’s and Ethan B&B, and the Norfolk Hotel, then I would want to see them provide an in-house support worker for these families who can help them with applications for housing, accessing health services, sorting out schooling, and so on,” she said. “Simply abandoning them is absolutely appalling and this cannot continue.”
Birmingham City Council says it only uses B&Bs as a contingency measure and will, going forward, be offering properties in the private rented sector to those they have a duty to house.
Two new supported accommodation units, Barry Jackson Tower and Magnolia House, will also open early next year.
And it is part of the recently launched Housing First pilot, for which the West Midlands has received £10 million to help with homelessness and expanding social housing across the city.
>The Norfolk Hotel (above), Ethan B&B (top right), and Smithy’s Hotel (bottom right) received hundreds of thousands in council cash to house people