Huge increase in B&B spending for people who are homeless reveals urgency for more social housing

Rising numbers of people who are homeless are being placed in bed and breakfast hotels due to a severe shortage of housing meaning councils are being forced to spend over five times as much money on emergency accommodation as they were a decade ago.

Latest figures show that councils in England spent £142 million placing homeless households in bed and breakfasts in 2019/20, compared with £26.7 million in 2010/11 – a 430 per cent increase.

Currently, there are 10,510 households in bed and breakfasts, according to provisional data, compared with 2,310 a decade ago – more than a 350 per cent increase.

During the coronavirus crisis, central and local government have shown what can be achieved when they work together towards a shared goal with councils demonstrating their ability to lead and delivery on the most pressing issues facing residents right across the nation.

The Local Government Association now wants to work more closely with the Government to tackle the current housing shortage and is calling for councils to be given further powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year, as part of a six point plan of action.

With previous LGA analysis showing council housing waiting lists could double as a result of the pandemic, giving councils these new powers would help the Government to meet a third of its annual housing target and reduce homelessness.

By reforming Right to Buy so that councils can retain 100 per cent of receipts, have flexibility to combine right to receipts with other Government grants and be able to set the size of discounts locally, councils could go even further.

The LGA says these measures would enable councils to significantly boost the number of new homes built, supported by the right infrastructure. Polling by the LGA has also found that 80 per cent of MPs and 88 per cent of Peers think councils should have more financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.

Cllr David Renard, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “Sadly, these figures reflect the scale of the housing challenges that our country faces. Councils will only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the severe lack of suitable housing means they now have no choice. This is hugely disruptive to families with children, and the rising demand for support has come with soaring costs for councils.

“Throughout the pandemic government has trusted councils to get on with the job of protecting the nation, supporting people and putting infrastructures in place to help with recovery. We want to continue this momentum and work with government to tackle the shortage of housing and build the homes the country desperately needs.

“With the right funding and freedoms, councils can help government achieve its ambitions for our national recovery from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers to build council housing on the scale required, would go a significant way towards reducing homelessness and the need to place households in bed and breakfasts.”

By Patrick Mooney, Editor