LONDON (Reuters) - London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Thursday his office will contribute 15 million pounds ($21 million) to a fund aiming to provide hundreds of homes at reduced rents to rough sleepers.
Homelessness is a chronic problem in London: last year there were over 8,000 sleeping rough in a city where house prices are well above the national average.
The issue hit the headlines last month when a local politician in the town of Windsor near London provoked controversy by calling for aggressive beggars to be cleared from the streets before the wedding there of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.
“The scale of homelessness in our capital is shocking and we are doing everything we can to tackle it,” Khan said in a statement.
The scheme will buy around 330 private properties and will be administered by homelessness charity St Mungo’s and Resonance, an investment firm with a focus on social issues.
The London boroughs of Westminster, Croydon and Lambeth are providing another 45 million pounds to the scheme, and the fund has a target of 100 million pounds in total.
The number of rough sleepers between October and December in 2017 was down 7 percent compared to the year before, the mayor’s office said.
But Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party, added that the Conservative national government should do more.
“They must fully fund services to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so, and tackle the long-term causes of homelessness including by investing more in social housing and reconsidering many of their changes to the welfare system,” he said.
Britain’s department for housing, communities and local government was not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison